Christmas and New Year festivities in Europe offered little respite from the relentless spread of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus. H5N1 continues to be the dominant serotype across the continent.
Over this period, 14 states across the continent officially registered new cases in poultry with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
New notifications from Bulgaria, Portugal, Slovenia
During the second half of December, poultry at two farms in Bulgaria tested positive for HPAI. The serotype of the virus was not identified, according to the OIE reports.
First to be affected was a flock of around 6,400 mule ducks in the central province of Stara Zagora. At the end of the month, the disease hit an egg farm with around 40,000 hens in Haskovo. Located in the south of the country, this provinces shares a border with both Stara Zagora and Turkey.
Previously in 2021, 12 HPAI outbreaks in Bulgarian poultry were registered through the Animal Disease Information System of the European Commission (EC; as of December 19).
Also in central Europe, the state of Slovenia has recorded its first cases of H5N1 HPAI in poultry since 2006. Testing positive for this virus was a mixed backyard flock of 112 birds in the eastern region of Drava (Podravska).
Portugal has notified the OIE of first outbreaks of HPAI in poultry in two new areas. The latest to be affected by the H5N1 virus were two turkey flocks. One comprising just over 18,000 turkeys was in the central-western district of Leiria. In the neighboring district of Santarem was the second flock of around 7,300 birds.
At the end of November, a hobby flock had tested positive for the same virus in the nearby Portuguese district of Setubal.
Italy’s outbreak total approaches 300
Since the first HPAI cases of the season in the country on October 19, Italy has recorded 294 outbreaks in poultry. This was the count on December 30, according to the nation’s health authority and research organization for animal health and food safety, IZSVe.
So far, the great majority of outbreaks have occurred in the regions of Veneto and Lombardy. In Veneto, first cases have been detected on December 22 in the province of Rovigo.
The latest cases reported to the OIE bring the total number of poultry directly impacted by the Italian outbreaks since October to almost 13.6 million.
Further cases reported elsewhere in European poultry
Over the past two weeks, HPAI outbreaks have been registered with the OIE by the veterinary authorities of eight of the continent’s countries. At each location, presence of the H5N1 serotype has been confirmed.
Of these states, France has recording the most outbreaks at 14. These bring to 30 the total number identified in France since the start of the winter season. Almost 443,000 poultry have been directly impacted (up to December 29).
All of the latest premises to be affected in France were on farms in the south-west of the country. While two were located in the department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, the other 12 were in Landes. Around half of the latest outbreaks were detected in commercial ducks as the result of increased surveillance. Also testing positive for the virus have been broilers at four locations, as well as two mixed flocks that included waterfowl.
There have been 12 further confirmed HPAI outbreaks in Poland. Directly affected have been almost 680,000 poultry.
Of these latest outbreaks, nine were located in central-western provinces of Greater Poland (Wielkopolskie) and Lower Silesia (Dolnoslaskie). Furthermore, two were in Warmia-Masuria in the north-east, one in the southwestern province of Silesia (Slaskie). Among the affected flocks was one with more than 312,000 laying hens.
Based on information supplied to the OIE, 402 HPAI outbreaks were confirmed in Polish commercial poultry in 2021.
Also registering new outbreaks in poultry flocks to the OIE have been Hungary (six new outbreaks), two each in the Czech Republic, Irish Republic, and Sweden.
In the United Kingdom (U.K.), the number of confirmed outbreaks stands at 75 (as of January 3). According to the agriculture department, Defra, this total comprises 62 outbreaks in England, five each in Northern Ireland and Scotland, and three in Wales.
Avian flu 'resolved' in two Russian regions
In the most westerly region of Russia, Kaliningrad, the HPAI situation has been “resolved.” This is according to a recent report from the Russian authorities to the OIE.
In mid-November of 2021, the H5N1 HPAI variant was detected in a backyard flock of 50 birds in Kaliningrad.
At around the same time, four outbreaks linked to the same variant were reported in the Republic of Tatarstan and the Republic of Bashkortostan. Affected were four farms — two with ducks, and one each with geese and quail — with a total of around 157,000 birds. Each outbreak was declared “ended” by the end of December, and no further cases have been reported.
Widespread detection of HPAI in Europe’s wild bird populations
Over the past two weeks, animal health agencies of eight European countries have registered with the OIE at least one wild bird that has tested positive for the H5N1 HPAI virus. These include Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, and the U.K.
View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.