Europe endures third avian flu wave of winter

In its latest overview of the HPAI situation in Europe (as of April 12), European Reference Lab for avian influenza, IZSVe highlights that the number of outbreaks since October of last year has produced three distinct waves in terms of outbreaks numbers.

New Design Illustrations | Bigstock
New Design Illustrations | Bigstock

In its latest overview of the HPAI situation in Europe (as of April 12), European Reference Lab for avian influenza, IZSVe highlights that the number of outbreaks since October of last year has produced three distinct waves in terms of outbreaks numbers. Peaks were in week 47 of 2020, as well as weeks two and 10 of this year. It was the number of HPAI-positive events in wild birds that underpinned the first and latest spikes, while outbreaks in poultry drove the wide peak in January and February. 

Using the same metrics, IZSVe puts the total number of HPAI outbreaks since October at 3,032. In all, 27 European states have registered one or more outbreaks. Of the total, 970 “HPAI events” have occurred in poultry, 59 in captive birds, and 2,003 in wild birds. 

With a total of 1,365, Germany has recorded the highest number of total outbreaks, and by far the most in wild birds (1,129). The nation registering the most outbreaks in poultry is France (with 483), followed by Germany (with 206), Poland (158), and the Czech Republic (31). Sixteen other countries have confirmed one or more HPAI outbreaks in poultry so far this winter.

Poland’s avian flu battle continues

Since the start of this month alone, Poland’s chief veterinary office  has confirmed 40 HPAI outbreaks in poultry linked to the H5N8 virus variant. These have directly impacted almost 1.42 million birds. While some outbreaks have occurred in backyard flocks, the great majority have been on commercial farms with laying hens, breeder hens, pullets, and fattening birds (turkeys, ducks, and geese). The largest single recent outbreak was in a flock of 320,000 broiler chickens.

Infections have been widely distributed across the country. Central provinces of Greater Poland (Wielkopolskie) and Masovia (Mazowieckie) are the locations of multiple outbreaks. However, cases in poultry have also been confirmed so far this month in Pomerania (Pomorskie) and Warmia-Masuria in north of the country, as well as in central Lodz, and southern provinces of Lesser Poland (Malopolskie), Subcarpathia (Podkarpackie), and Silesia (Slaskie). 

As a result of the spread of HPAI infections, the chief veterinary office has announced that Belarus has added the following Polish provinces to the banned list for imports of poultry and poultry products: Lesser Poland, Opole and Subcarpathia.

Over the past week, the Polish authorities have registered 31 new outbreaks of HPAI linked to the H5N8 virus to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). Almost all of these outbreaks occurred in the same county — Kalisz — in Greater Poland. Confirmed in the period March 8-23, these involved more than 565,000 poultry in total.

The same virus has also been detected in 70 wild birds in Poland. 

Germany reports heavy poultry losses during March

A series of reports from German states to the OIE record a total of 113 HPAI outbreaks in poultry linked to the H5N8 virus. Almost all of these outbreaks occurred during the month of March.

Directly impacting more than 1.03 million birds, the outbreaks occurred in 10 states, and affected many small poultry flocks as well as some sizable commercial holdings. These included flocks of 61,000 and 103,000 laying hens in Lower Saxony and two more of 55,000 and 76,000 in Schleswig-Holstein; 37,400 breeder chicken in North Rhine Westphalia, and 52,400 in Bavaria, as well as three commercial turkey farms in Brandenburg.

Multiple outbreaks in poultry in the Czech Republic

Since the country’s first cases of HPAI in January of 2021, the Czech Republic (Czechia) has confirmed with the OIE 31 outbreaks in poultry. At each location, the H5N8 virus subtype was detected.

These include 26 outbreaks registered over the past week, and occurring between mid-February and early April. Directly impacted by these outbreaks were more than 245,700 poultry in backyards and farms in nine of the nation’s 14 regions. Involved in the larger outbreaks were a flock of 176,500 laying hens, and nine of breeder ducks each comprising between 1,800 and 28,900 birds.

Czech authorities have reported one additional outbreak linked to the same virus variant in other birds. This involved a hobby flock of 43 birds that included 28 mallard ducks. 

France: HPAI situation stable

Latest information from the French agriculture ministry suggest the HPAI continues to be stable.

The number of confirmed outbreaks in poultry this winter now stands at 490. This total comprises 475 outbreaks in the south west of the country — mainly the departments of Landes, Gers, and Pyrennees-Atlantiques. There have also been 20 outbreaks in other birds, which includes the first case in an ornamental bird (in Bas-Rhin or Lower Rhine) in addition to 19 wild birds.

According to official reports to the OIE, there have been no new cases of poultry positive for the H5N3 variant of the low-pathogenic avian influenza virus (LPAI). Furthermore, surveillance of the wild bird population has revealed no new cases positive for the H5N1, H5N3 or H5N8 HPAI viruses. 

New cases in poultry other European states

According to the latest official report to the OIE, Lithuania has recorded one new outbreak linked to the H5N8 in a backyard poultry flock.

In Russia, presence of the same variant has been detected at another location in Krasnodar krai in the Southern federal district. This led to further mortality and culling at a previously affected premises, involving more than 406,000 poultry at the site.

In Hungary, the H5N1 HPAI virus has been detected at a farm in Hajdu-Bihar with around 11,800 breeding turkeys. 

Sweden reports HPAI “resolved”

HPAI situation linked to the H5N5 virus subtype has appears to be “resolved” in the county of Skane, according to the latest official report from the Swedish animal health agency. No new cases have been detected since early March, when an organic layer flock tested positive for this variant in Trelleborg.

Since mid-March, no new cases of H5N8 HPAI have been detected in poultry in Sweden’s counties of Ostergotland or Skane.

Among the other countries where no new cases of HPAI have been detected in recent weeks in poultry are Finland and Lithuania. 

Northern Ireland lifts poultry housing order

Now in line with other parts of the U.K., the housing order for all poultry has been lifted this week, according to agriculture department. However, the additional biosecurity measures relating to the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone remain in place. These were introduced in December of 2020. Two outbreaks of HPAI have occurred at commercial poultry premises in Northern Ireland this winter season.

As avian flu is likely still circulating in the wild bird population, the authorities have warned poultry owners to maintain high levels of biosecurity. The department highlights particularly the importance of cleaning and disinfecting all equipment, clothing, and vehicles that are in contact with poultry. Access should be limited to essential visitors, and both clothing and footwear should be changed before entering the birds’ enclosure.

HPAI detected in wild birds in eight European countries

In addition over the past week, new cases of HPAI linked to the H5N8 virus variant have been reported to the OIE by the veterinary authorities in Greece, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (U.K.).

In Ukraine, the first cases of wild birds have been registered of an H5 HPAI virus in Mykolaiv oblast for four years.

After a long absence, the H5N5 HPAI virus has been detected in wild birds in the Republic of Dagestan in Russia’s North Caucasian federal district, and in Astrakhan oblast (Southern federal district). 

Further cases in wild bird testing positive to the H5N5 variant have been recorded with the OIE by the veterinary authorities of Romania and Sweden.

Latest updates reveal no more wild birds testing positive for the H5N8 HPAI virus in Finland or Latvia, and none in Sweden for the H5 virus family. In the Czech Republic, no further cases linked to the H5N5 virus have been detected, according to the latest reports to the OIE.

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.

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