Housing order for Dutch poultry as avian flu detected in wild birds

Highly pathogenic avian influenza has been detected in western Europe for the first time this autumn, sparking an immediate housing order for poultry in The Netherlands.

(mashi_naz | Bigstock)
(mashi_naz | Bigstock)

For the first time in two years, an H5N8 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus has been detected in wild birds in The Netherlands. Two mute swans out of a group of six birds found dead on wetlands near Utrecht have tested positive for the virus, according to the official report to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

Following this discovery, the country’s ministry of agriculture announced an order for all poultry in The Netherlands to be kept housed with immediate effect.

Source of the infection in the Netherlands was likely to migrating wild birds that had been infected in Russia, concluded an expert group. This was based on a virus of the same family that has been detected recently among wild birds and poultry in Russia.

The same group concluded that the risk level of the introduction of HPAI to Dutch poultry had risen “high.” This led the minister to introduce the housing order for free-range and organic poultry with effect from October 23.

Dutch findings have implications for other European countries

Already at the start of October, animal health agencies warned poultry producers in the European Union to be on high alert for signs of avian flu. This warning followed confirmation of HPAI cases in poultry in Kazakhstan and Russia.

Detection of the HPAI virus in the region is regarded as “significant” by the animal health agencies of the United Kingdom. Because the Dutch cases were in swans, which do not themselves migrate over significant distances, this species may be acting as a sentinel for local infection. The same sources suggest that mortalities may be occurring in migrating bird species, but that numbers are too low to be observed.

Genotyping of the virus obtained from the Dutch swans suggests the virus is most closely related to H5N8 viruses circulating in Egypt in 2018-2019, and in The Netherlands in 2016. According to the European Reference Lab for avian influenza, IZSVe, the latest viruses from The Netherlands do not appear to have originated from the same subtype that have been circulating in Germany and eastern Europe since the start of this year.

Avian influenza situation continues in Israel

Israel has officially recorded its third outbreak of HPAI in poultry this year.

The latest premises to be affected was a farm at Yizreel in the district of Hazafon, according to the agriculture ministry. In its report to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the ministry records 80 cases among a flock of 34,000 one-year-old heavy breeders. Of this total, 65 of the birds died. Morbidity and mortality were confined to one of the four pens at the farm. After the presence of the H5N8 HPAI virus was confirmed, all surviving birds at the farm were slaughtered to try to halt the further spread of the infection.

HPAI returned to Israel earlier this month. Prior to that, the virus had last been detected in a single wild bird in January of this year, and no cases of the disease have occurred in poultry since April of 2019.

So far, three outbreaks of the disease have been confirmed in poultry, with one outbreak in each of the districts of Haderom (Southern District), Haifa, and most recently Hazafon (Northern District). As a result of mortality and culling, direct losses of poultry in Israel have reached 87,800 birds.

Also this month, Israel has reported the detection of an HPAI of the same family among water birds at a zoo in Jerusalem, and a natural park in Tel Aviv. No new cases have been registered with the OIE in wild birds over the past week.

Avian flu detected in new region of Russia

The H5N8 HPAI virus has been detected at a large poultry farm in Kostroma oblast. According to the Russian agriculture ministry, this was the first outbreak in the region for almost two years. This oblast is located in Russia’s Central federal district.

Of the almost 283,000 poultry at the farm, more than 14,000 birds died, according to the official OIE report.

Linked to the same virus variant, a further outbreak has been confirmed in the Republic of Tatarstan, which is in the Volga federal district. Affected was a flock described as “backyard,” comprising 1,220 birds, according to a separate report to the OIE. More than 180 of the poultry died, and the rest have been destroyed.

These latest cases bring the total outbreaks in this area of Russia since August of this year to 53. While the first cases in this outbreak series were in Omsk oblast (Siberian federal district), more recent outbreaks have been recorded in the Urals federal district, and in Saratov oblast (also part of Volga federal district). Although most outbreaks have involved small flocks, the total number of birds affected is well over 1.58 million as one of the Omsk outbreaks was on a large commercial farm.

Despite the on-going HPAI situation in poultry, Russia’s agriculture ministry has declared the disease situation “resolved” in wild birds.

This declaration to the OIE follows a total of seven outbreaks linked to the same virus variant in wild birds during August and September of this year.  Most recent cases were in a small number of wild ducks at two locations in Tuymen oblast (Urals federal district) during the first week of last month.

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.

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