Avian flu situation in Germany eases slightly

The latest assessment of the H5 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) situation in Germany points to an easing in the situation, according to the national veterinary reference laboratory.

(New Design Illustrations | Bigstock)
(New Design Illustrations | Bigstock)

The latest assessment of the H5 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) situation in Germany points to an easing in the situation, according to the national veterinary reference laboratory, Friedrich-Loeffler Institute (FLI).

This has led to a lowering of the risk level of the transmission of the infection from wild birds to poultry from “high” to “moderate” over the last few days. However, FLI stressed that this risk remains, and it urged great caution, particularly with respect to movements of live poultry. Bird owners are encouraged to maintain high levels of biosecurity.

Germany experiences second HPAI wave in poultry 

At the end of October last year, Germany detected its first HPAI cases of the winter season. Since then, there have been around 1,200 cases of HPAI linked to an H5 virus in wild birds, and 245 outbreaks in poultry (including six in captive birds), according to FLI. The virus has been detected in 14 of the country’s 16 states, mainly in wild birds that were found dead. 

Cases in poultry have come in two main waves. The first peaked in November, and was confined to flocks in northern Germany. By the second peak that started in February of 2021, more outbreaks were occurring in central and southern states, as well as more cases in the north. 

Between the end of October and April 20, presence of the H5 HPAI virus has been confirmed in 137 backyard flocks in Germany. Of the remaining infections, 64 were detected in turkeys, 18 in laying hens, 17 in waterfowl (ducks and geese), and two in broiler flocks, as well as at seven zoos. 

Between March 22 and April 6, there have been 111 HPAI outbreaks among German poultry flocks, reports FLI. Apart from one outbreak on a large farm in North Rhine Westphalia, almost all the other cases over this period have been in small flocks, mainly in Baden Wurttemberg (60 outbreaks in 12 districts) and Thuringia (35 outbreaks in seven districts). In addition, HPAI H5 virus has been detected in 12 German states over this same period. 

Over the past week, Germany has officially registered its first cases of HPAI linked to the H5N8 virus variant in the southwestern state of Baden Wurttemberg. According to the report to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), there were 35 outbreaks of the disease among poultry flocks in this state between March 22 and April 1 this year. These occurred in nine backyard flocks of 5-54 birds, and 26 farms with up to 347 poultry. At almost all these locations — which covered eight districts — elevated mortality was observed. 

Poland’s total outbreaks impact 3.5 million poultry this month

For the year so far, Poland has confirmed 245 outbreaks of HPAI linked to the H5N8 virus variant in poultry, reports the nation’s chief veterinary office. These now include the first outbreaks in the central-southern province of Holy Cross (Swietokrzyskie) and central-northern Kuyavia-Pomerania.

Over the past week, the outbreak total has risen by 43. Of these 14 were in non-commercial flocks, and 29 at poultry farms. Among the larger flocks to be affected were 305,000 laying hens in the Wolsztyn district of Greater Poland, and in Mazovia’s Zuromin district, one farm had 114,800 hens, and another housed 33,600 ducks.  

For the month of April, more than 3.5 million Polish poultry have been lost to HPAI through mortality or culling. 

Bulgaria, France, Slovakia confirm HPAI outbreaks in poultry

Over the past week, the Bulgarian food safety agency has reported two new HPAI outbreaks in the country’s poultry flocks, bringing the nation’s total outbreaks this year to six. 

Both of the latest outbreaks affected farms, each with around 40,000 laying hens. First was in Krivo Pole, in the southern province of Haskovo, which borders Greece and Turkey. The latest outbreak occurred at another farm described as a “breeding facility for laying hens.” Located in the village of Trilistnik in the central province of Plovdiv, this was the fourth HPAI outbreak at the farm since 2017. 

At each farm, all poultry and contact birds have been culled. Authorities are tracking and tracing all movements of birds, feed, and vehicles to control the further spread of infection. 

In France, two new HPAI outbreaks in poultry have brought the nation’s total to 492 outbreaks in poultry, reports the agriculture ministry. With 475 affected sites, the southwest of the country has been worst affected. However, the new outbreaks are elsewhere in the country — in the northern departments of Ardennes and Bas-Rhin (Lower Rhine). Cases in other birds are unchanged from last week at 19 in wild species, and one in captive birds.

Over the past week, Slovakia’s veterinary authority has registered with the OIE the country’s first outbreak of HPAI linked to the H5N1 virus variant in the eastern region of Bratislava. All six birds of a backyard flock in Malinovo died of the disease last week. Wild birds are the suspected source of infection.

According to updates from the respective animal health agencies to the OIE, there have been no new cases of HPAI in poultry in Hungary’s Hajdu-Bihar region, nor in Finland. 

In mid-January, Romania reported a single outbreak of HPAI linked to the H5N8 virus in an experimental poultry holding with ducks and geese. As this virus has not been detected in the meantime, the country’s veterinary authority has declared to the OIE that the situation has been “resolved.” 

Six European states register new HPAI cases in other birds

In Belgium, H5 HPAI virus has been detected in a group of more than 2,800 birds at Waregem in West Flanders, according to the OIE report. According to the regional government, the outbreak was at a poultry trader’s facility, and involved the H5N8 virus variant. Following cases in early December of last year and in mid-April, this was the third such outbreak in the area.

Reporting to the OIE cases of HPAI linked to the H5N8 virus in wild birds over the past week were Germany (Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein regions), Italy, Norway, and Sweden. 

Germany has also registered one additional wild bird that tested positive for the H5N3 variant in Schleswig-Holstein. In the same state, the first cases have been detected of infections with the H5N4 and H5N5 virus variants in wild birds. First cases linked to the H5N4 variant have also been found in Hamburg. 

In Scotland (United Kingdom), three wild rooks have tested positive for the H5N1 virus variant.

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.

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