French minister: Avian flu situation in poultry is improving

There are some signs of improvement in the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) situation in France, according to agriculture and food minister Julien Denormandie.

sharafmaksumov | Bigstock
sharafmaksumov | Bigstock

There are some signs of improvement in the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) situation in France, according to agriculture and food minister Julien Denormandie.

In a video conference last week reported by the agriculture ministry, he stated that number of new outbreaks during the first week of February was 25. This compares with 130 in the same period of the previous month.

Latest information from the ministry (as of February 15) puts the number of confirmed outbreaks since November of last year at 466 — six more than the previous week’s total. Of these, 453 outbreaks have occurred in the southwest of the country. Worst-affected departments continue to be Landes (341 outbreaks), Pyrenees-Atlantiques (56), and Gers (46).

Compensation for poultry-related companies in affected French regions

Attributing the decline in new cases to the success of the strategy of depopulating the most vulnerable farms, Minister Denormandie said that 739 premises have been cleared of poultry. This resulted in the culling of just over three million poultry, comprising around 2.45 million ducks and 556,000 other birds.

During the meeting, the minister confirmed that the French state will be offering compensation for these losses, as allowed under national and EU regulations.

This covers not only the losses to poultry owners whose flocks have been slaughtered to control the spread of the disease. A system is also being put in place, he said, to support others that have suffered economic losses resulting from HPAI. Four groups have been identified as potential recipients: poultry breeders, breeder-hatcheries, businesses with downstream links (such as slaughterhouses, processors, and packers) or suppliers of goods or services (feed, transport, cleaning, by-product processors), and breeders of game birds.

General HPAI situation among European poultry flocks

As of February 14, the total number of HPAI outbreaks confirmed in Europe had reached 476. This is according to data collected through the Animal Disease Notification System of the European Commission.

As Bulgaria and Finland registered outbreaks for the first time since the end of January, the number of countries with at least one outbreak in poultry so far this year now stands at 17.

With 392 outbreaks, France has recorded the most outbreaks, and also the biggest increase over the previous two weeks (64). Germany’s total is 30, and Poland’s has reached 22. All other nations have registered no more than six outbreaks through this system so far in 2021.

Four countries — Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and Slovakia — have informed the EC about HPAI outbreaks in captive birds this year. The total of six outbreaks comprises three in Germany, and one in each of the other nations.

Seven countries register new cases in poultry

As well as the latest cases in France, Poland’s chief veterinary office has reported two additional outbreaks of HPAI in poultry. They bring the country’s total so far this year to 21.

First to be confirmed was at a non-commercial mixed flock of 260 birds in the western province of Lubusz. Shortly afterwards, HPAI was detected in a flock of 10,677 commercial layers in Greater Poland. The virus subtype is not specified in these reports, but only the H5N8 HPAI virus variant has been detected elsewhere in the country.

With the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the Polish authority registered three previous outbreaks over the past week. These had been confirmed in early February, and affected a small mixed farm in the province of Holy Cross, a meat turkey flock in Warmia-Masuria, and commercial laying hens in Greater Poland.

Since the country’s first cases in November last year, there have been 40 outbreaks among Polish poultry flocks. These have directly involved almost 3.22 million birds.

For the first time, the H5N8 virus has been detected in poultry in Finland, according to the official OIE report. This followed the death of more than 100 pheasants at a farm rearing game birds in the south of the country.

Confirming new HPAI cases to the OIE among backyard flocks are Czech Republic (at two locations in different regions), Germany (one in Bavaria), and Ukraine (one in Donetsk oblast). At each premises, the H5N8 virus subtype was detected.

In a report to the OIE last week, the agriculture department for the United Kingdom (U.K.) confirmed the detection of the H5N8 HPAI virus at a commercial laying farm at Yearby near Redcar in North Yorkshire. Of the 1,500 birds at the premises, around 1,300 died. The rest have been destroyed.

This outbreak brings England’s total HPAI outbreaks linked to the H5N8 subtype so far this winter to 13. In addition, the H5N1 HPAI virus was detected at one farm in mid-December.

In recent days, the Government of Scotland has reported an outbreak in poultry of HPAI linked to the H5N1 virus variant. Affected was a flock near the eastern coastal town of Leven in Fife. High mortality had been observed among around 14,000 game birds of various species.

This is the second Scottish HPAI outbreak so far this winter. Earlier cases involved the H5N8 virus in a small commercial flock on the other side of the country in Orkney.

HPAI in European wild birds: more countries affected

So far this year, HPAI virus has been detected in 21 European countries, according to the EC notification system (to February 14).

Total outbreaks now stands at 233, which is 101 more than on January 31. Germany has recorded the most cases (109), followed by Denmark (48). These national totals are 39 and 32, respectively, higher than at the end of last month.

Austria, Estonia, Latvia, and Switzerland have registered their first cases of the year with the EC.

Over the past week, veterinary authorities in Estonia and Latvia have confirmed their first cases of wild birds testing positive for the H5N8 HPAI virus. First cases of the H5N5 HPAI variant have been detected in Austria, Poland, and Sweden. Denmark has recorded its first case of the H5N3 virus variant in the wild population.

Additional cases in wild birds linked to the most widespread (H5N8) virus subtype have been reported to the OIE by the animal health agencies of Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, and Switzerland.

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.

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