France introduces more stringent avian flu control measures

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is spreading rapidly in the southwest of France, prompting new disease control measures to be introduced.

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In France, agriculture minister Julien Denormandie has this week shown his support for poultry farmers in the southwest of the country who are battling again to control highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).

The latest data from the ministry put the number of confirmed cases at 197. Of these, 170 are in Landes, seven in Pyrénées-Atlantiques, six in Gers, and two in Hautes-Pyrénées. These departments are all located in the southwest of France.

Stressing the need for the strongest possible measures to bring the disease under control, the minister has repeated an earlier announcement that all poultry must be depopulated within five kilometers of a confirmed HPAI outbreak in France. Within a radius of 20 kilometers, movements are prohibited.

Under a new ministerial decree, preventative slaughtering of poultry can now be ordered in the four affected departments, as well as in municipalities in Lot-et-Garonne that border Gers.

To manage the additional slaughtering, five abattoirs have been requisitioned in the affected regions, reports the government.

Surge in outbreaks in French poultry

Since the country’s first HPAI outbreaks in poultry in early December last year, almost 700,000 poultry have been slaughtered in France — either following confirmation of an outbreak, or to prevent further spread of the infection. According to the agriculture ministry, majority of the birds have been ducks.

Over the past week, the French ministry has officially registered 72 outbreaks of HPAI in poultry. According to the official reports to the World Organisation for Animal Health covering the period December 24 to January 5, these involved almost 480,000 birds. Majority of these were commercial ducks, but there were also three chicken flocks, and one backyard.

Seventy of these latest outbreaks were in Landes, and one each in Pyrénées-Atlantiques and Hautes-Pyrénées. At each location, the H5N8 HPAI virus variant has been detected.

Hungary, Lithuania, Slovakia register first HPAI cases

Earlier this month, the authorities in Hungary detected the first cases of HPAI linked to the H5N8 virus this winter. Two poultry flocks and one wild bird have tested positive for this virus variant.

The poultry flocks were both of fattening turkeys in the town of Acs in the county of Komarom-Esztergom, according to the OIE report. At the first farm with around 47,600 birds, a drop in feed and water intake were noted before mortalities began. A neighboring farm with around 37,000 turkeys also tested positive for the virus. Both farms have been depopulated.

According to the agriculture ministry, a dead wild bird found in the same county was infected with the same virus. Located in the north of Hungary, Komarom-Esztergom borders Slovakia.

In Slovakia, the H5N8 HPAI virus has been detected in some ducks at a zoo in the Kosice region in the south-east of the country. Contact with wild species is the most likely source of infection, according to the OIE report. The virus was last detected in the country in 2018.

Until recently, Lithuania had been free of HPAI since April of 2017. However, over the past week, the agriculture ministry has reported its first cases of this winter in poultry and wild birds.

At the end of December, the H5N8 HPAI virus was detected in a mixed backyard flock after 22 of the birds died. The affected premises was in the central county of Kaunus.

Within a few days, the same virus was found in four wild birds at three locations. One of these was in Kaunus, and the others were in Klaipeda, which is on the Baltic Sea coast.

More HPAI outbreaks in poultry in four European states

Over the past week, Germany’s agriculture ministry has registered with the OIE the first cases of HPAI in two regions.

The H5N8 virus has been detected for the first time in poultry in the central state of Thuringia. Affected was a backyard flock of 53 chickens and turkeys, most of which died. In the neighboring state of Hessen, the same variant was found at a wildlife park after 15 wild birds died.

Poland’s veterinary authority has registered three new outbreaks of HPAI in poultry to the OIE over the past week. Confirmed between December 28 and January 4, these included two commercial flocks in the province of Lublin in the east of the country, as well as a non-commercial farm in Lower Silesia (Dolnoslaskie).

According to the latest update from the chief veterinary office, there have been three more recent outbreaks in Poland. These include a first HPAI outbreak in the central province of Kuyavian-Pomerania, involving a commercial turkey flock. Also affected are a flock of breeding geese in Warmia-Masuria, and fattening turkeys in the western province of Lubusz.

In Northern Ireland, two outbreaks of HPAI linked to the H5N8 virus have been reported over the past week. First was at a farm in Clough (County Down) with around 32,200 commercial layer pullets. Almost 200 of the birds died at the end of last month, and the rest have been destroyed, according to the official OIE report.

More recently, a second outbreak has been confirmed by the Northern Ireland department of agriculture (DAERA). This occurred at a commercial farm near Lisburn. Number and type of poultry are not disclosed. According to DAERA, around 80,000 poultry were culled in relation to the Clough outbreak.

The Dutch authorities have confirmed to the OIE the one HPAI outbreak announced by the agriculture ministry last week. This involved a flock of around 18,500 poultry at a farm in Moergestel in North Brabant.

Three European states register new cases in wild birds

In the United Kingdom (U.K.), wild birds testing positive for the H5N8 HPAI virus have been found at three more locations in England. In Wales, a dead swan has tested positive for the H5N5 HPAI virus variant.

In Belgium, one more wild goose has tested positive for the H5N8 HPAI virus, according to the OIE report. The bird was found late last month in the province of West Flanders.

Two dead wild swans at different locations in the Republic of Ireland were found to be infected with the same virus variant.

Mild avian flu resolved in Italy

Over the past week, Italy’s health ministry has declared to the OIE that the low-pathogenic avian influenza situation has been “resolved.”

In November of 2020, flocks of chickens and ducks in one municipality in Pavia province in Lombardy tested positive for an H5 virus. As the birds showed no clinical signs and mortality was not elevated, the virus was assumed to be an LPAI variant. No further cases have been detected.

Overview of HPAI situation in Europe

So far this year, nine states have registered one or more outbreaks of HPAI in poultry with the Animal Disease Notification System of the European Commission (EC).

Already up to January 10, 80 outbreaks have been confirmed in poultry. France accounts for 49 of this total, and Germany for a further 10. Also recording cases have been Denmark, Hungary, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, and the U.K.

In captive birds, the disease has been detected in two countries — one in each of Germany and Slovakia.

Among wild birds, 32 HPAI cases have been reported to the EC. This total comprises 18 cases in Germany, five in the Irish Republic, four in Denmark, three in Lithuania, and one each in Belgium and Hungary.

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.

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