Sharp rise in avian flu in western France

In France, the number of confirmed HPAI outbreaks in poultry flocks has reached 792, according to the country’s agriculture ministry.

Avian Influenza with inspiration and healthcare/medical concept on desk background
Avian Influenza with inspiration and healthcare/medical concept on desk background
bangoland | Bigstock

In France, the number of confirmed HPAI outbreaks in poultry flocks has reached 792, according to the country’s agriculture ministry. This was the total announced on March 15, and compares with 555 outbreaks just seven days previously, and is more than twice as many as the figure released on February 25.

Within just a few weeks, there has been a shift in the epicenter of HPAI from the southern regions of New Aquitaine and Occitania to Pays de la Loire. Located in west of France, the region covers the departments of Vendée, Loire atlantique and Maine-et-Loire.

Over the past week alone, the number of outbreaks in Vendée has risen by 191 to 338. This is more than 40% of the 792 outbreaks confirmed on French poultry flocks so far. In the same period, the number of farms affected in Loire atlantique has doubled from 26 to 52, and Maine-et-Loire’s total has jumped from five to 19.

In addition, the agriculture ministry reports 17 outbreaks in backyard poultry flocks located in 13 departments.

Clearly aware of the sudden up-tick in HPAI outbreaks in poultry in northwestern France, the government recently introduced new stricter disease controls.

France: losses to avian flu pass five million

Latest official report from the French authorities to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) outlines 144 new outbreaks confirmed in the country between the last week of February and March 9. All were on farms, and presence of the H5N1 HPAI virus serotype was confirmed.

All but nine of these outbreaks were in the Pays de la Loire region — mainly in Vendée. The great majority of affected premises kept ducks. However, the virus was also detected on 19 farms with turkeys, 16 with chickens, four with geese, two with guinea fowl, three with geese, two with quail, and there were four mixed flocks. 

Latest outbreaks bring the number of poultry directly impacted by HPAI in France this winter to more than 5 million.

The Netherlands steps up HPAI controls

Latest HPAI outbreak in the Netherlands highlights the devastating impact the virus can have, according to the Dutch minister for Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, Henk Staghouwer.

“The situation is worrisome,” he said. “There is currently no one-size-fits-all solution to the bird flu situation in Europe. That is why we are speeding up the vaccine trial, tightening biosecurity and continuing to monitor the situation closely.”

Affected by the latest outbreak — also attributed to the H5N1 virus serotype — was an organic egg farm in the province of Gelderland. On the premises in Lunteren were around 38,200 laying hens. About 20 of these birds died, and the rest of the flock was destroyed.

Prompting the minister’s comments about the severity of the situation was the fact that the outbreak occurred in an area with many poultry farms. To reduce the risk of spreading the infection, all poultry were ordered to be culled within 3km of the outbreak. This involved three more houses of laying hens, and one of broiler breeders — 69,400 birds in addition to the index flock.

So far this winter, the Dutch authorities have notified the OIE about 33 HPAI outbreaks on the nation’s poultry farms. Number of birds directly impacted at these infected premises has passed 1.9 million.

European HPAI outbreaks in poultry pass 550

As of March 6, 17 European countries had registered one or more outbreaks in poultry so far this year. This is according to the latest update of the Animal Disease Information System by the European Commission (EC). Up to that date, the System has logged a total of 566 outbreaks for the year.

With 392 outbreaks recorded up to that date, France accounted for the most outbreaks. Next came Hungary (29), Poland (26), Spain (25) and Germany and Italy (each with 22).

Almost without exception, the H5N1 HPAI virus serotype has been detected at the location of each outbreak.

Further cases on German, Polish poultry farms

Over the past week, Germany and Poland have each notified the OIE about one new HPAI outbreak among commercial poultry.

At the start of this month, more than 300 birds died at a farm in the German state of Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen). The remaining birds — almost 19,000 — were culled. Based on information from the national veterinary reference laboratory, Friedrich-Loeffler Institute, the affected birds were turkeys.

According to the same source, a laying hen from Bavaria has also tested positive for HPAI in the past week.

Meanwhile, in Poland, the same HPAI virus serotype has been detected in a commercial flock of more than 477,000 poultry at a farm in Greater Poland HPAI virus. Almost 200 of the birds died earlier this month, and the rest have been destroyed. This was the 27th Polish poultry flock to be infected with the H5N1 virus so far this year.

Over the past week, one backyard poultry flock has tested positive for HPAI in each of the following countries: the Czech Republic, Portugal and Scotland.

Furthermore, three European states have declared to the OIE that earlier HPAI disease series are “closed.”

In each case, a single outbreak was confirmed, according to the veterinary agencies of Denmark, Romania and Russia. Declaration from Russia applies to the Rostov region in the Southern federal district.

Continued spread of HPAI in Europe’s wild birds

For the year to date, HPAI outbreaks in wild birds across Europe reported to the EC animal disease system have reached 1,262 (as of March 6). This represents an increase of 64 compared with the previous update of February 25.

Of the 27 states that have now registered cases through this system, Germany has detected the most outbreaks in wild species (657), followed by the Netherlands (248), and Denmark (67).

Also confirming with the EC new outbreaks since February 25 were Belgium, France, Hungary, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

In addition, two European countries have notified the OIE about recent new outbreaks in wild birds.

In Romania and the United Kingdom (U.K.), wild species have tested positive for the H5N1 serotype.

Furthermore, a first case has tested positive for the H5N8 virus variant in the U.K. According to the OIE report, the bird was a swan found dead in southwest England.

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.

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