Rising bird flu wave sweeps across Western Europe

As of October 22, 1,898 outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) have been recorded this year in commercial poultry farms across Europe.

This is based on the latest update of the Animal Disease Information System by the European Commission (EC). To date, one or more outbreaks have occurred in 23 countries covered by the EC since the beginning of 2022. The first reported cases of the year in poultry are Norway and the French overseas department of Réunion.

By comparison, a total of 1,756 outbreaks have been registered with the EC by 24 European states across the whole of 2021.

This year, metropolitan France is the country reporting the most outbreaks to the EC (1,381). Then come Hungary (205), the Netherlands (69) and Germany (67).

Almost without exception, the H5N1 HPAI virus serotype has been identified as the cause of outbreaks across Europe since the fall of 2021.

Sharp increase in HPAI outbreaks in English poultry farms

As of October 17, a mandatory housing order has been in place for all poultry across England. Under the rules of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ), commercial and hobby flock owners are required to keep birds confined and implement additional biosecurity measures. Previously, the AIPZ measures only applied to parts of South West and East England.

The extended AIPZ was announced by the Department of Agriculture, Defra, following a new HPAI risk assessment in England by the Chief Veterinarian.

Also on October 17, an AIPZ was imposed across Northern Ireland by the Department of Agriculture. This followed the recent detection of the H5N1 HPAI virus in captive birds at a wildlife reserve near Strangford Lough.

Since the end of September, outbreaks of HPAI have been officially recorded in 30 poultry farms in England, Scotland and Wales. According to notifications to the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH), these have had a direct impact on more than 350,000 birds through mortality or culling. The most recent of these outbreaks began on October 13.

More recent updates from Defra put the number of confirmed outbreaks in England at 68 outbreaks of HPAI over the same period (to 24 October). Almost all of these cases were in commercial poultry, and the majority occurred in the eastern counties of Norfolk and Suffolk.

As the UK is no longer a member of the European Union, the CE system now only covers Northern Ireland.

First cases of the season in another French region

In the last 10 days, France has registered with WOAH 11 other outbreaks of HPAI in poultry farms, involving a total of more than 154,000 birds.

Most of the establishments concerned in metropolitan France were located in the western region of Pays de la Loire. There were also cases in Auverne-Rhône-Alpes in the south-east, and the first appearance of the new season in Nouvelle-Aquitaine in the south-west.

Dutch Minister of Agriculture supports vaccination

In the Netherlands, poultry from five farms tested positive for the H5N1 virus serotype between October 8 and 14, according to the latest WOAH notification. The premises concerned were located in four provinces – Friesland, Limburg, Overijssel and South Holland – with a total of more than 399,000 poultry of different types.

Over the past week, the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture has registered three more agricultural outbreaks. Two were in Gelderland and one in Limburg.

In the Netherlands, the housing of poultry has been compulsory since the beginning of the month. In addition, in designated high-density poultry areas, all establishments within one kilometer of a confirmed outbreak are now depopulated. Those between 3 and 10 kilometers from the outbreak are monitored for infection for 14 days. A ban on the movement of poultry and their products is in place within a radius of 10 kilometers around the outbreak.

Describing the consequences of the bird flu situation in the country as “unsustainable”, the new Minister of Agriculture, Piet Adema, pledged to support the acceptance of vaccination as a means of controlling the disease.

Five other European countries record cases in poultry farms

In each of the northwestern German states, North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony, a new outbreak involving commercial poultry has been reported to WOAH.

According to the Italian health authority and research organization for animal health and food safety, IZSVe, the first outbreak of the season in the country occurred a month ago in a flock of mixed poultry in the region. from Veneto.

Over the past week, the presence of the H5N1 HPAI virus has also been confirmed in a flock of broiler chickens in Veneto, in broiler turkeys in Lombardy and in laying hens in Emilia-Romagna.

According to the IZSVe, there have been 28 outbreaks of HPAI in Italian poultry farms so far in 2022.

In the past 10 days, a new outbreak has been recorded in a commercial farm in Belgium, Bulgaria and Norway. For these last two states, these were the first cases of the 2022-2023 season.

Other homes among backyard flocks, captive birds

In its reporting system, the EC has recently introduced a separate category for outbreaks of HPAI in captive birds. Covering non-commercial poultry flocks, zoos and similar premises, this year’s total stands at 167 (as of October 22). The first cases of the year were recorded using this system in the French overseas territory of Reunion, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

With 75 so far this year, France leads nations in the region for this type of outbreak, followed by the Netherlands (42) and Belgium (11). Each of the other 13 countries that reported cases in this category in 2022 recorded between one and eight outbreaks.

Since October 7, France has confirmed to the EC 11 new outbreaks in backyard/captive birds, the Netherlands five and Belgium three.

Not covered by the Community scheme, the UK has registered nine new outbreaks in captive birds with WOAH. Affecting backyard chickens, ornamental birds and those in a game bird centre, the cases have been widely spread across England.

HPAI outbreaks continue in wildlife across Europe

For the year to October 22, a total of 2,826 outbreaks of HPAI in wild birds were reported to the EC. One or more outbreaks have now been confirmed in 32 European states in 2022.

Of the total, 1,144 outbreaks were reported by Germany, followed by the Netherlands (595) and France (250).

Since October 7, the total number of cases has also increased for Belgium, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Slovenia, Spain and Northern Ireland.

By comparison, the EC disease control system recorded a total of 2,437 outbreaks of HPAI in captive and wild birds in 31 European states during the whole of 2021.

Check out our ongoing coverage of the global bird flu situation.