France sees spike in avian flu cases in poultry

In just a matter of days, France confirmed almost 60 new outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza in poultry flocks.

Avian Influenza word cloud, made with text only
Avian Influenza word cloud, made with text only

Over just a few days, France confirmed almost 60 new outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in poultry flocks. With the H5N1 virus serotype continuing to be widely prevalent, countries across Europe have reported further outbreaks on commercial farms and backyard units, as well as in wild birds.

In the current winter season, France recorded the country’s first cases of HPAI in poultry towards the end of November.

According to the French agriculture ministry, the number of confirmed outbreaks on farms stands at 339 (as of February 2).

An increase of 58 since January 24, most of the latest cases were in the south-west of the country. Landes alone accounts for 39 of the new outbreaks, bringing this department’s total for the season so far to 225. Also in the New Aquitaine region, PyrĂ©nĂ©es Atlantiques and Gers have seen 65 and 32 confirmed outbreaks this winter.

In addition to the outbreaks on commercial farms, cases of HPAI have also been detected in 11 backyard poultry flocks in France, and 28 wild birds.

Together with the neighboring region of Occitane, farms in New Aquitaine bore the brunt of the HPAI outbreak wave in France during the winter of 2020-2021. At that time, the presence of the H5N8 virus serotype resulted in the culling of around 3.5 million poultry in France. Most affected were duck flocks in the southwest. 

HPAI situation among European poultry

As of January 30, 12 European countries have registered one or more outbreaks in poultry with the Animal Disease Information System of the European Commission (EC). The system has recorded a total of 293 outbreaks in 2022 up to that date. This is an increase of 72 since the previous update, dated January 16.

Of the total, France has reported the most outbreaks (202) for the year to that date, followed by Hungary (29), Poland (16), Italy (14), and Germany (12).

Also reporting cases through the system have been Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands. 

Italy records 10 outbreaks so far this year

First HPAI outbreaks of the season in Italy were registered in mid-October. Since then, the number of confirmed outbreaks has reached 308, according to the nation’s health authority and research organization for animal health and food safety, IZSVe.

Since the start of 2022, 10 outbreaks linked to H5 or H5N1 virus variants have been confirmed. Five of these were in Lombardy region, four in Veneto, and one in Tuscany. While this source does not provide details of bird numbers, affected were four broiler flocks, three of laying hens, one of meat turkeys, and two of mixed species. 

Further cases in central, eastern European poultry

So far this year, 16 HPAI outbreaks have occurred in Polish poultry flocks, reports the chief veterinary office. Most recent cases were confirmed during the last week of January. Affected were one backyard flock in the southwestern province of Lower Silesia, and two commercial flocks in neighboring Greater Poland. Farm outbreaks occurred in around 136,000 meat turkeys and 9,225 breeding ducks.

Based on notifications to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), just over 2.5 million poultry in Poland have been directly impacted by HPAI so far this winter.

Hungary’s animal health agency has reported to the OIE one additional HPAI outbreak over the past week. Affected was a farm in the southern county of Bacs-Kiskun with 121,000 laying hens. More than 1.12 million poultry have been involved in 76 confirmed HPAI outbreaks in this Hungarian county alone since November of 2021.

In Bulgaria, HPAI was detected at two further locations last month. The virus variant involved is not reported in either case.

During the second week of January, 20 out of 5,800 Pekin ducks showed signs of disease at a farm in Haskovo. This province is in southern Bulgaria. Around two weeks later, backyard poultry in the north-eastern province of Dobrich tested positive for HPAI.

Of the five HPAI outbreaks in the Czech Republic registered with the EC so far this year, one was confirmed at the end of January. 

Additional outbreaks in Germany, Netherlands, U.K.

Over the past week, Germany’s veterinary authorities have officially registered five further outbreaks in poultry flocks. 

Among those affected were two commercial premises in Lower Saxony. One had more than 33,000 meat turkeys, and there were 30,000 laying hens at the other farm. The presence of the H5N1 virus variant was also detected in two backyard flocks — two in North Rhine-Westphalia, and one in Rhineland-Palatinate.

At the turn of last month, the HPAI virus was detected or suspected at five poultry farms in the Netherlands. Three located in each of the central provinces of Flevoland and Gelderland.

First infections to be confirmed were in meat duck flocks of around 3,000 and 9,400 birds, according to the OIE notifications. Subsequently, over the first days of February, the Dutch government confirmed the presence of an H5 virus at three more premises — with 168,000 laying hens, 15,000 chickens, and 15,000 ducks.

In the United Kingdom (U.K.), latest information from the agriculture department puts the total number of confirmed HPAI outbreaks in poultry so far this winter at 88. The total comprises 74 outbreaks in England, six in Scotland, five in Northern Ireland, and four in Wales.

In the two most recent English outbreaks, HPAI was confirmed at a premises in Gloucestershire in the southwest. Later, in the northeastern county of Cheshire, a commercial poultry flock was slaughtered on suspicion of HPAI. Subsequent tests revealed the presence of the H5N1 virus serotype. 

Cases in European wild birds already pass 740

For the year to date, HPAI outbreaks in wild birds across Europe reported to the EC animal disease system have reached 744 (as of January 30). Of these, 170 were registered over the previous two weeks, including the first case in 2022 for Bulgaria.

Of the 23 states registering cases through this system, Germany has detected the most outbreaks in wild species (407), followed by the Netherlands (128), and Denmark (45).

Over the second half of January, one or more cases in wild species were also reported to the EC by Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, and Sweden. 

Not covered by this system are Russia and the U.K. However, birds at a Moscow zoo have tested positive for the H5N1 virus serotype, according to a recent OIE notification. Furthermore, in the U.K., 46 more wild birds have been infected with the same virus variant, based on reports to this source.

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.

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