Avian flu virus circulates during Europe’s summer months

To date, one or more outbreaks have occurred in 20 European countries since the start of 2022. Last month, this season’s figure has just passed the total of 1,756 outbreaks registered with the EC by 24 European states throughout 2021.

Doctor using red pen draw circle on avian influenza
Doctor using red pen draw circle on avian influenza
mashi_naz | Bigstock

As of July 29, 1,777 HPAI outbreaks have been recorded across Europe so far this year. This is based on the latest update of the Animal Disease Information System by the European Commission (EC). The total represents an increase of 11 outbreaks from the version published on July 8.

To date, one or more outbreaks have occurred in 20 European countries since the start of 2022. Last month, this season’s figure has just passed the total of 1,756 outbreaks registered with the EC by 24 European states throughout 2021.

This year, France has been the nation reporting the most outbreaks to the EC (1,344). Next come Hungary (205), the Netherlands (43), Germany (36) and Poland (35).

Since mid-July, seven European countries have officially confirmed new HPAI outbreaks in poultry. Based on notifications to the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), the infection are widely dispersed from France and Denmark to Russia. Almost without exception, the virus serotype responsible has been identified as the H5N1 subtype.  

Seven nations record further outbreaks in poultry

In recent weeks, cases of HPAI have been reported in poultry at 17 locations in Russia’s Central federal district. None was reported described to WOAH as a commercial farm. Around 5,500 birds belonged to a village flock in Belgorod oblast, while the others affected were in backyard flocks, each of 12-147 birds. 

Since the HPAI virus was first detected in this federal district in May, 30 outbreaks in six oblasts have been confirmed to WOAH.

Since mid-July, four further HPAI outbreaks have occurred on commercial farms in the Netherlands, according to the Dutch agriculture ministry

First to be reported were cases at a premises with 105,000 broilers in the northern province of Friesland. Subsequently, outbreaks were confirmed further south at three farms near Dalfsen in Overijssel. At these premises were 88,000 meat ducks, 42,000 broiler breeders, and 13,000 organic laying hens. At the second and third of these, other poultry nearby were subject to preventative culling.

Also confirming four new HPAI outbreaks in poultry over the past month has been Poland’s chief veterinary office. All were in the central province of Greater Poland (Wielkopolskie) and involved the H5N1 virus serotype. Affected were a total of around 116,000 poultry, including two flocks of breeding hens, and one each of laying hens and meat geese.

In France, three recent HPAI outbreaks have together affected around 8,800 poultry in the north of the country. While one affected a small backyard flock, other involved farms in the Hauts-de-France and Normandy regions. Based on notifications to WOAH, these bring France’s total outbreaks since November of last year to 1,376, with 15.75 million poultry directly impacted.

Meanwhile, a further three HPAI outbreaks have been confirmed in the United Kingdom (U.K.). According to the agriculture department Defra, these involved a commercial flock of 25,000 birds in the southwestern county of Devon. Also infected were a backyard flock in the same county, and 200 mixed ornamental birds in Bedfordshire in eastern England.

Two more HPAI outbreaks have been confirmed to WOAH by Germany’s veterinary agency. Both occurred in the north of the country — affecting a flock of 13,000 poultry in Lower Saxony, and another of 5,600 birds in Schleswig-Holstein. 

In the Republic of Moldova, HPAI has been detected for the first time in the western district of Falesti. According to the WOAH notification, affected was a small backyard poultry flock. The virus has not yet been typed. 

HPAI “resolved” in Moldova, Hungary

In the neighboring Moldovan district of Ungheni, the HPAI situation has been resolved, according to the nation’s animal health authority. Since the H5N1 HPAI virus was detected in a non-commercial village flock there in May, there have been no further cases. 

Hungary’s veterinary agency, meanwhile, has reported to WOAH that the HPAI situation in poultry have been closed. 

Between mid-April and the end of May, 176 outbreaks linked to the H5N1 HPAI virus were registered with WOAH. Directly involving almost three million poultry, these affected commercial farms in five southern and eastern counties. 

HPAI outbreaks continue in wild birds across Europe

Since July, the EC is reporting HPAI outbreaks in captive birds separately from those in wild birds. 

For the year to July 29, a total of 196 outbreaks in captive birds have been registered through the system by 21 European countries. 

Of the total, France has registered the most outbreaks (52) followed by Slovenia (35), Spain (31) and Poland (22).

Among wild birds, the EC system registered 2,188 outbreaks up to the end of last month. One or more outbreaks have been confirmed in 29 European states.

Of the total, more than half (1,101) outbreaks have been reported by Germany, followed by the Netherlands (461).

In recent weeks, authorities in both France and the U.K. have highlighted a change in the seasonal pattern of HPAI in wild birds. 

During the summer months, number of new cases in the wild population have reduced to low levels in previous years. This is attributed to a settling of bird population following the spring migration, Furthermore, prolonged sunshine is thought to kill off the HPAI virus. 

However, this year has seen ongoing cases detected along the coast of northern France, according to the agriculture ministry. Since mid-May, it reports almost 100 HPAI “events” in 17 departments. Many of which involved mass mortalities of seabirds. 

Meanwhile, a recent report from Defra records confirmation of the presence of the H5N1 HPAI virus in breeding seabird colonies around the U.K. coast throughout this summer. As these tend to be in areas well away from domestic birds, these infections are not thought to pose a particular risk to poultry at the present time.

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.

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