New spike in avian flu cases in French poultry

Since the start of May, more than 20 new outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) have been confirmed in poultry flocks in southwest France.

(Dariuszman |
(Dariuszman |

Following a devastating series of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreaks in poultry flocks since November of 2021, France reported an easing in the situation from mid-March. Just last month, the government announced a further easing in disease-related restrictions across the country. 

It is to be hoped that the absence of cases for several weeks is not the calm before another HPAI storm. However, since the start of this month, a number of new outbreaks have been confirmed by the agriculture ministry.

The "hot-spot” for the latest outbreaks is the south-west of the country, reports the ministry. Its total figure for mainland France is 335 outbreaks for the current HPAI “season,” which began on August 1, 2022. Of the 21 new outbreaks, 17 were in Landes, and four in Gers. Adjacent departments, Landes is in the southwestern region of Nouvelle Aquitaine, while Gers is located in the south of France in the Occitanie region. 

Between November of 2021 and March of this year, the veterinary agency of France officially registered 1,688 outbreaks in poultry flocks. According to the notifications to the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), these directly impacted almost 20.8 million poultry through mortality or culling. All outbreaks were linked to the H5N1 serotype of the HPAI virus.

In 2022, a lull in new cases among French poultry began in mid-April, and the current wave resumed at the end of July. 

Czech Republic, U.K. register new outbreaks in poultry

Over the past week, one outbreak linked to the same HPAI virus variant has been confirmed in the Czech Republic (Czechia). 

Affected was a farm with just over 15,000 meat turkeys in the Moravian-Silesian region at the end of April. This was the first farm outbreak in this region.

Within a few days, the Czech Republic’s state veterinary service reported a second outbreak in the same area. It comprised around 14,000 meat turkeys. It brings to 22 the number of outbreaks in Czech poultry since the start of this year, including six commercial farms.

In the U.K., the number of outbreaks in all poultry since October of 2022 now stands at 182, according to the agriculture department, Defra.

Since mid-April, birds have tested positive for the H5N1 virus at three locations, based on WOAH reports. These were in one flock of 16,000 laying hens and another comprising 26,000 pheasant breeders in Powys (Wales), and in around 27,700 free-range organic hens near Doncaster in the English region of South Yorkshire. 

To WOAH, two governments have declared the HPAI situation in poultry “resolved.” This applies to the Netherlands and to the German state of Thuringia. 

Between October of 2021 and early May, the Dutch veterinary authority recorded 91 outbreaks in poultry with WOAH. Directly impacted were more than 5.4 million birds. Four weeks after the final cleaning and disinfection was completed at the most recent outbreak, all disease restrictions were lifted nationwide on May 5.

In the central German state of Thuringia, just one HPAI outbreak occurred in early December of last year, affecting 272 exhibition birds. 

Two European nations report new cases in captive birds

In mid-April, one backyard poultry flock tested positive for the H5N1 HPAI virus in Northamptonshire in England, and in Saxony-Anhalt in central Germany. Affected were flocks of eight and 164 birds, respectively.

After just one outbreak in December last year, Russia has declared to WOAH that the HPAI situation closed in Rostov. In this region of the Southern federal district, a backyard flock of four birds tested positive for HPAI. 

New cases in wild species across Europe

Over the past week, wild birds have tested positive for the H5N1 in 10 European states. 

Particularly affected have been seagulls over a wide area, mainly in countries around the Baltic Sea. From Poland, 113 such cases have been reported to WOAH since the end of April, and 100 more across nine states of Germany.

In Latvia, the first infections have been detected since January of 2022. All were in gulls, according to WOAH notifications. 

Among wild birds, the authorities in the Netherlands and Slovenia have declared “resolved” earlier outbreak waves in their respective wild bird populations.

Meanwhile, three European states have notified WOAH about new cases of H5N1 HPAI infections in animals other than birds.

Testing positive for this virus in Germany have been six foxes, three coatis, and one seal. For the first time, this virus serotype has been tested in Italy in two foxes, while three more cases have been reported in Belgium.

HPAI overview across Europe

Updates to the Animal Disease Information System have not been published by the European Commission since April 21. 

However, based on some partial releases, it appears that the total number of HPAI outbreaks in poultry stands at 298 (as of May 10) in 20 countries. In 23 states, the number of outbreaks in wild birds has risen to 2,079. For captive birds, the situation appears to remain unchanged from April 21, with 81 outbreaks in 12 countries. 

The EC monitors the disease situation in European Union member states and immediate neighbors. This includes Turkey, but excludes Russia and the U.K. (with the exception of Northern Ireland).

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.

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