France makes progress on avian flu vaccination

All mainland regions of France have now begun vaccination of commercial ducks.

Avian Influenza Jigsaw Puzzle
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So far, around one-third of French commercial ducks has received at least one dose of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI)  vaccine.

The latest update from the agriculture ministry puts the number of commercial ducks that have received their first dose of H5N1 HPAI vaccine at more than 21.6 million (as of March 4). This is three million more than it reported on February 12.

All mainland regions of France have now begun vaccination of commercial ducks, according to the national policy. Carrying out the most vaccinations so far have been the western and southwestern regions of Pays de Loire, Nouvelle Aquitaine, and Occitanie.

Following several waves of HPAI in recent years that have devastated the nation’s duck sector in particular, France decided to begin vaccination of commercial ducks in October of last year. Target number of ducks was 64 million, covering the main species, in flocks of medium and large size, and producing products that were not intended for export.

Despite the latter pledge and the progress made, France has suffered a backlash from international markets over its decision to carry out the vaccination program.

Between November of last year and mid-January, 10 HPAI outbreaks in French poultry flocks were confirmed by the ministry. All were linked to the H5N1 HPAI virus serotype. Just three of the outbreaks involved ducks, while the other affected six flocks of turkeys, and one of laying hens.

In late February, the authorities officially declared the outbreak “resolved” to the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH).

HPAI outbreak total in European poultry flocks rises again

Among the region’s commercial birds, total outbreaks have reached 130 for the year so far.

This is according to the latest update of the Animal Disease Information System from the European Commission (EC; as of March 1). It monitors 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 — a number unchanged from the previous edition dated February 23.

With the highest total so far this year is Moldova with 55, followed by Poland (24). Since the earlier update, these totals have increased by 20 and four, respectively. Furthermore, one more outbreak in Slovakia has raised its total to five.

Further detail on some of these developments are provided in notifications from the national animal health agencies to WOAH.

Poland’s two latest outbreaks occurred in the first days of March in two meat turkey flocks, according to the WOAH report. With around 8,000 and 44,700 birds, the farms were located in the same district in the northeastern province of Warmia-Masuria. They bring to 25 the number of confirmed outbreaks on Polish poultry farms so far in 2024, directly impacting 565,000 birds.

In Bulgaria, the number of outbreaks this year has risen by one to eight.

The latest to test positive for HPAI was a flock of almost 40,000 poultry in Haskovo. These were the first cases in the current outbreak series in this southern province, and they bring the total birds affected to more than 120,700.

A second poultry unit at a previously infected premises in the Czech Republic (Czechia) has been depopulated due to HPAI.

According to the WOAH report, the original outbreak involved around 11,700 parent stock birds, which showed clinical signs of disease, tested positive for HPAI, and were culled. Separately managed and located at a distance of 100 meters were 13,400 grandparent birds. Initially they displayed no symptoms, but subsequent tests showed they too were infected, and they have also been culled. 

Cases in captive birds in 4 states

Covered by this category under the EC System are HPAI outbreaks in non-commercial poultry, zoos, and similar premises.

As of March 1, total outbreaks in captive birds stands at 45. With a total of 22, the Czech Republic has registered the most outbreaks in this category since the start of 2024, followed by Germany (eight), and Ukraine (seven).

Compared with the previous edition dated February 23, the Czech total has increased by two, and by one for each of Germany and Poland.

Furthermore, the Romanian authority has notified WOAH of a further outbreak in a backyard flock in the northeast of the country.

According to WOAH reports, presence of the H5N1 HPAI virus serotype has been detected in all these outbreaks — in both poultry and captive birds.  

11 countries register new HPAI cases in wild birds

As of March 1, 24 European countries have reported HPAI cases in their respective wild bird populations with the EC.

While the number of nations is unchanged from the previous update dated February 23, the outbreak total has increased by 25 to 314.

Of the latest total, 104 outbreaks were confirmed in Germany, 59 in Denmark, and 19 in Sweden. Totals for each of these states increased since the previous EC update, along with those of Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Ukraine.

Furthermore, the authorities in Romania and Slovenia have each notified WOAH over the past week about one additional wild bird that had tested positive for HPAI.

With the exception of Northern Ireland, the animal disease situation in the United Kingdom (U.K.) is not monitored by the EC.

However, the U.K. authorities have notified WOAH about two more wild birds that have tested positive for HPAI, and that this was identified as belonging to the H5N5 serotype. They bring to five the nation’s total number of infected birds testing positive for this variant since September of last year.

In northern Germany, two wild birds have tested positive for the same HPAI virus serotype. One was a first detection in more than three years in the state of Lower Saxony.

The great majority of other cases among European wild birds have been linked to the H5N1 variant.

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.  

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