Avian flu virus detected from South Korea, Russia to western Europe

While Russia and Israel report further outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in poultry, first cases of the season have been detected in western Europe. Wild birds at two locations in South Korea have tested positive for a related virus.

(NikD51, Bigstock)
(NikD51, Bigstock)

While Russia and Israel report further outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in poultry, first cases of the season have been detected in western Europe. Wild birds at two locations in South Korea have tested positive for a related virus.

In the Southern federal district of Russia, the H5N8 HPAI virus has been detected at a poultry farm with over 1.1 million birds.

More than 1,000 poultry at the premises in Rostov oblast died around the middle of October, according to the official report to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). Presence of the H5N8 HPAI virus was detected, but the fate of the rest of the flock is not recorded.

The Rostov oblast is located in the Southern federal district of Russia. In neighboring North Caucasian district, the first occurrence of HPAI linked to the same virus variant in poultry was reported by the agriculture ministry in mid-September.

Further east in the Urals federal district, two outbreaks of HPAI were reported during July of this year. Affected were two small poultry flocks in Chelyabinsk oblast. Additionally, a wild duck found dead nearby also tested positive for the H5N8 virus. As no further cases have been detected since that time, Russia’s agriculture ministry has declared to the OIE that the HPAI situation in that region has been “resolved.”

Further HPAI outbreaks in Israeli turkey flocks

Over the past week, Israel’s agriculture ministry has registered three further outbreaks of HPAI in poultry. According to the official report to the OIE, two of the affected premises were in Yizreel (Hazafon or Northern district), and one was in the Hadera city region of Haifa. The virus was detected in two turkey breeder flocks, and one of meat turkeys. Of the total of more than 41,000 birds, around 240 died and the rest have been destroyed.

These latest outbreaks bring Israel’s total to six since mid-October. Previous outbreaks were in Yizreel, Hadera, and in Hadarom (Southern district). Direct losses of birds exceed 128,600.

Around the same time, the virus was also detected for the first time since 2017 in wild birds. Over the past week, the agriculture ministry has recorded a positive result in four more birds. Affected were two pelicans and a black swan found dead near to previously confirmed outbreaks, and an owl near to water where migratory birds congregate.

First HPAI outbreak in Dutch poultry sector since 2018

Already one month ago, Europe’s poultry farmers were warned to be alert for signs of avian influenza after cases were reported in poultry and wild birds in eastern Europe.

The H5N8 HPAI virus has been detected in poultry in The Netherlands for the first time since July of 2018.

At the end of last month, presence of this variant was confirmed in a broiler parent flock at Altforst in the province of Gelderland. More than 10,000 of the 35,700 birds at the farm showed symptoms. Around 400 of them died, and the rest have been destroyed.

At the farm, elevated mortality and clinical symptoms were observed in birds kept in one of the three poultry houses at the farm, according to the European Reference Lab for avian influenza, IZSVe. All poultry tested at the nine farms within three kilometers of the outbreak have tested negative for the virus.

One week ago, Dutch authorities announced that the same virus variant had been detected for the first time this year in wild birds in the province of Utrecht. This prompted a call for all poultry in the country to be kept housed to reduce the risk of infection.

Since then, a further eight wild birds of various species — including ducks, geese, a swan, and seabirds — have tested positive for the virus, according to the IZSVe. The tested birds were found sick or dead in provinces of North Holland, Gelderland, Friesland, and Utrecht between October 26 and November 2.

Severe, mild forms of avian flu confirmed in English poultry flocks

After six of the birds in a mixed flock of around 400 showed symptoms, authorities in the United Kingdom (U.K.) detected a low-pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) virus. Subsequently, this was identified as an H5N2 type. It is the first time that this virus variant has been found in the country.

Located in Deal in the southeast English county of Kent, the farm does not participate in any international trade, according to the OIE report from the agriculture department, Defra.

In recent days, the same source has registered a first outbreak in the country this year of HPAI linked to the H5N8 virus. It was detected at the start of November in a flock of 13,500 broiler breeder chickens at a farm near Frodsham in Cheshire (northwest England). Tests confirmed that it is related to the virus currently circulating in Europe, and all the birds will be culled.

In line with international procedures, and to reduce the risk of further spread of the infection, a three-kilometer protection zone, and a 10-kilometer surveillance zone were immediately set up around the outbreak farms.

Germany reports first detection of HPAI in wild bird

Reporting the country’s first HPAI-positive wild bird of the autumn/fall season is Germany. The H5N8 virus subtype has been detected in a sick wild duck in the city of Hamburg, according to the official report to the OIE.

Since then, further cases have been confirmed by the country’s agriculture ministry, BMEL, in a handful of wild bird species in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, and Schleswig-Holstein.

Confirmed presence of the virus has prompted the authorities to urge poultry farmers in Germany to be alert for signs of disease in their birds, and to take precautionary measures to protect their flocks.

This week, the country’s avian flu alert level was raised to “high” by the national veterinary authority, the Friedrich-Loeffler Institute.

HPAI virus returns to South Korea

HPAI has not only remerged in Europe in recent weeks, but also in Asia.

According to the agriculture ministry’s latest official report to the OIE, the H5N8 HPAI virus has been detected in the droppings of wild ducks in South Korea.

During the third week of October, routine surveillance revealed the H5N8 virus variant in the droppings of wild ducks at two locations in central South Korea. First positive sample was taken in the Cheonan city area of South Chungcheong province, and the other was from the Yongin city region of Gyeonggi province.

HPAI had been absent from South Korea since March of 2018.

According to the Yonhap news agency, the ministry had already introduced measures to restrict the movement of poultry and other livestock at 188 farms within 10 kilometers of the first positive result. These were then applied to the area around the second virus-positive sample.

In a more recent report, the same source records suspicion of a third outbreak at Yangju, which is north of the capital, Seoul.

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.

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