Avian influenza: the European Union is on the alert for new outbreaks

Yuhai Bi. et al., 2016 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chom.2016.10.022



European Union (EU) countries have been urged to step up surveillance and biosecurity measures to prevent possible new avian influenza epidemics.

The alarm follows outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) that have occurred among wild birds and poultry in western Russia and Kazakhstan in recent months. This region is a well known autumn migration route for wild waterfowl heading to Europe.

In the light of past experience, Northern and Eastern Europe appear to be the most vulnerable to new epidemics. Indeed, when HPAI was detected in the same area of ​​Russia in the summers of 2005 and 2016, it was in these areas that epidemics followed. If the pattern is repeated this year, the HPAI should arrive in the same European areas between autumn and winter. A subsequent spread to the countries of southern and western Europe cannot be excluded.

The alert is included in the latest update report on avian influenza in Europe and outside Eupre. The new report – which is written by EFSA, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Union reference laboratory for avian influenza – covers the period May to August 2020.

The report recommends that EU countries, in accordance with EU legislation on risk mitigation and early detection systems for HPAI, should:

  • Take measures to detect suspected cases of HPAI promptly, and increase biosecurity measures at poultry farms.
  • Warn veterinary and wildlife health authorities of the likely risk of HPAI introduction, and urge them to carry out observation and testing of dead or sick wild birds.

Spread of the virus is likely to be triggered by a sudden and persistent fall in temperatures in central Russia and Kazakhstan. Several studies demonstrate that cold weather conditions led to the rapid westward expansion of the HPAI virus by infected migratory birds during the 2005-2006 and 2016-2017 waves.

The risk of transmission of avian influenza viruses to the public in Europe remains very low. However, to minimise the risk of transmission to humans, people are advised not to not touch dead birds without wearing appropriate personal protective equipment.



Source: EFSA


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