Avian flu hits poultry flocks in 10 European states

Italy, England and Norway reported their first avian influenza cases of 2024.

Avian Flu Illustration
mashi_naz | Bigstock

Over the past two weeks, veterinary agencies from 10 of the continent’s countries have confirmed new cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in their respective poultry flocks, while two more have recorded outbreaks in backyard or captive birds. Meanwhile, wild birds have tested positive for HPAI in 18 nations across Europe.

While the number of HPAI outbreaks among Europe’s poultry, captive and wild bird populations remains relatively low, new cases have been detected widely across the region over recent weeks.

In commercial poultry, total outbreaks have reached 105 so far this year. This is according to the latest update of the Animal Disease Information System from the European Commission (EC; as of February 23). Monitoring the animal disease situation in European Union (EU) member states and neighboring countries, the System has recorded one or more outbreaks so far in 2024 in 15 states.

Since the previous update dated February 2, this represents an increase of 37 outbreaks, and first cases of the year appear to have been confirmed in Italy, Northern Ireland, and Norway.

So far registering the highest outbreak total is Moldova with 35 for the year to date, followed by Poland (20), and Germany (nine).

Of the recently reported outbreaks, 13 were in Poland, five in Moldova, four in Bulgaria and Denmark, three in the Czech Republic (Czechia) and Germany, and two in Slovakia. 

First farm cases of the year in Italy, Norway, U.K.

According to the EC’s System, each of these three countries has recorded its first cases of HPAI in poultry for 2024 over the preceding three weeks. Notifications from the respective veterinary agencies to the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) offer further details of the disease situation. The presence of the H5N1 HPAI virus serotype was detected in each case.

The outbreak in Italy was confirmed after 50 meat turkeys died suddenly at a farm in the province in Padua in the Veneto region earlier this month. Later, it was reported the affected flock comprised a total of around 37,400 birds.

According to the national reference lab for avian influenza IZSVe, this was Italy’s sixth HPAI outbreak of the season, which began in mid-November of 2023.

Norway had experienced a 12-month hiatus from HPAI until around 70 birds at a farm in Rogaland county tested positive for an H5 virus earlier this month, according to the WOAH report.  

Affected was a total of around 18,000 chickens, reported the Norwegian veterinary institute. The birds were kept in two separate houses, and the infection appears to be contained in one of the buildings. That group was culled immediately, but the fate of the remaining birds is not yet reported.

While the EC’s System appears to include the first outbreak of 2024 in Northern Ireland, this may be inaccurate. No cases of HPAI in poultry have been reported by the agriculture department there recently.

In recent years, the disease situation in the rest of the United Kingdom (U.K.) has not been monitored by the EC System. However, it is possible that the one outbreak recorded by the EC in Northern Ireland was in fact that confirmed on February 12 in the northeast English region of East Yorkshire. According to the WOAH notification, that affected a flock of around 48,000 laying hens.   

Avian flu developments elsewhere in European poultry

Over the past two weeks, Poland has registered HPAI cases at a further nine commercial premises to WOAH.

So far this year, 23 outbreaks have been confirmed by the Polish chief veterinary office (up to February 27). Total birds impacted by these outbreaks has passed 529,000.

Since the first week of February, eight of the 13 confirmed outbreaks have occurred in the same county — Ilawa – in the northeastern province of Warmia-Masuria. Mainly affected over this period have been meat turkeys and meat ducks.

In Bulgaria, the 2024 outbreak total has risen to seven with the confirmation to WOAH of three new affected farms. One of these represents the fifth of the year in the central province of Plovdiv, while the others were the first in Veliko Tarnovo and Dobrich, which are further north and east.

Outbreak total in the Czech Republic currently stands at five. Two outbreaks reported to WOAH in the middle of February involved one flock of point-of-lay pullets, and another of broiler breeders. Both were located in the central-southern region of Vysocina.    

Last week, WOAH received a report from the Danish authorities about country’s fifth outbreak in commercial poultry. Affected was a flock of around 20,000 laying hens in the Zealand region.

France makes progress with duck vaccination program

The latest update from the French agriculture ministry puts the number of commercial ducks that have received their first dose of H5N1 HPAI vaccine at more than 18.5 million (as of February 12). All mainland regions of France have now begun vaccination of commercial ducks, according to the national policy.

The national authority has recently declared to WOAH that the H5 HPAI situation in poultry has been “resolved.” This declaration follows confirmation of outbreaks at 10 premises since November of last year, but no further cases have been detected since early January. 

New cases in captive birds recorded in 7 states

According to EC System, veterinary agencies of seven European nations have confirmed HPAI cases in this category so far this year.

Including non-commercial poultry, zoos, and similar premises, the total has reached 41 (as of February 23). This is an increase of 14 since the edition published 21 days previously.

With a total of 20, the Czech Republic has registered the most outbreaks in this category so far, followed by Germany and Ukraine, each with seven.

First outbreaks of the year have been recorded by Denmark and Poland, and the Austrian total has risen by one since the previous edition.

Further HPAI cases in wild birds across Europe

As of February 23, 24 European countries have reported HPAI cases in their respective wild bird populations with the EC. This includes first cases of 2024 for Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cyprus, Lithuania, and Slovenia.

Since the previous update on February 2, the outbreak total has increased by 144 to 289.

Of the total, 91 have been reported by Germany, and 56 by Denmark. Each registering between 10 and 20 outbreaks in this population for the year so far were Austria, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, and Sweden.

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.

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