Belgium and France register bird flu outbreaks in backyard herds


In the past two weeks, new highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreaks have officially been registered in poultry – two in France and one in Belgium. The bird flu situation in Bulgaria and the United Kingdom has now been declared closed. A year after some major outbreaks, officials in the Republic of Tatarstan appear to be promoting preventive culling of backyard poultry flocks.

At the beginning of the month, France’s agriculture minister raised the risk of avian flu from “low” to “moderate”. This followed the detection of the H5N8-HPAI virus variant in a small mixed flock of poultry in the Ardennes. Located in the north of the country, this department borders on Belgium.

Further details of the outbreak were revealed in a later official report from the French veterinary authority. According to a report to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), a total of 598 birds were affected by the outbreak in Vandy. The flock was privately owned and included six Egyptian geese and 592 birds of various species, including chickens, ducks, quails, turkeys, and pigeons. Of these, 46 birds died and the rest were culled.

The report notes that the virus belongs to clade 2.3.4.4.b and has different cleavage sites than the virus of the same “family” that circulated in France in late 2020 and early this year.

A previous French outbreak was reported retrospectively to the OIE. At the end of August, a bird owner in Aubenton, Aisne, reported the deaths of 18 of the 33 birds in the flock. Some of the birds that tested positive for the H5N8 HPAI virus were recently purchased from the Belgian market trader linked to other HPAI outbreaks in the area. Aisne borders the Ardennes.

France’s last wave of HPAI disease resulted in nearly 500 outbreaks in 15 departments and the killing of around 3.5 million birds. The worst hit were the herds of ducks and goose in the south-west of the country.

At the beginning of September, the ministry announced that the HPAI outbreak series 2020-2021 in connection with the virus variant H5N8 in France had been discontinued.

In recent news, the French Ministry of Agriculture eased some of the hunting restrictions this fall / fall. As long as the risk to avian flu remains moderate – as is currently the case – the transport of decoys is allowed. If it is raised too high by new outbreaks, such bird movements should only be permitted by registered owners who cannot have more than 15 birds and have no connections with poultry. In addition, all such movements must be recorded so that officers can track and trace any future infections.

Belgium has third outbreak

In the province of Luxembourg, a third Belgian flock of poultry tested positive for the HPAI virus variant H5N8. Five birds were affected, all of which died.

These cases bring the country’s confirmed outbreaks to three since late August. A total of 362 poultry were directly affected.

Bulgaria and Great Britain declare the bird flu situation closed

The Bulgarian Animal Health Authority (OIE) was declared “resolved” last week by bird flu across the country.

This declaration followed three previous confirmed outbreaks on holdings totaling nearly 122,000 poultry. All of them were in Plovdiv and infected in April and May of this year. The province of Plovdiv is located in central-southern Bulgaria.

For the past two weeks the UK Veterinary Service has reported to the OIE that a number of bird flu outbreaks are now “closed”.

Most important for the poultry sector was the closure of the H5N8 HPAI outbreak waves. Between October 2020 and March this year, 19 outbreaks associated with a virus variant occurred. Almost 408,000 birds were directly affected, including more than 406,000 poultry on farms and in non-commercial flocks.

After two outbreaks – one in December last year and one in February – authorities have also suspended the H5N1-HPAI virus-related situation in British poultry. In addition, the situation regarding the low pathogenic subtypes of the avian influenza virus H5N2 and H5N3 in domestic birds has been clarified.

As for the cases in wild birds, the UK has reported that the disease situation for the H5N8-HPAI virus is over. In addition, no new cases of the H5N1, H5N3 or H5N5 variants have been identified for several months.

Current overview of the bird flu situation in Europe

In 2021, 1,188 HPAI outbreaks were registered in poultry in 19 European countries. This emerges from the latest update of the animal disease information system of the European Commission (EC; as of September 22nd).

The largest number of outbreaks were recorded in France (474 ​​outbreaks so far this year), followed by Poland (339) and Germany (229). Only Kosovo and Poland reported new cases to the EU in August and none this month.

Based on information made available from this source, 29 countries have recorded 1,702 HPAI outbreaks in wild birds and non-commercial poultry populations so far this year.

So far in September, new cases in wild species or captive birds have been confirmed in Belgium, Finland, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Tatarstan owners pushed for preventive poultry slaughter

Earlier this month, officials from the Republic of Tatarstan urged owners of backyard poultry to slaughter their birds, Realnoe Vremya reported. All signs of illness or unusual mortality in birds must be reported and all vehicles transporting poultry must be cleaned and disinfected.

Veterinarians said these flocks increased the risk of avian flu for the territory’s commercial poultry.

When HPAI flocks infected the area about 12 months ago, migratory wild birds were blamed for spreading the disease. As a result, the authorities have decided that commercial poultry must from now on be isolated from wild species, particularly wild ducks.

A total of 18 HPAI outbreaks have been reported in Russia, according to a senior official from the regional office of the National Agriculture Warden. These have occurred in a number of areas, including Astrakhan Oblast, Chelyabinsk, Krasnodar, Rostov and Tyumen, and Dagestan and Tuva, the same source reports.

Tatarstan, located in Russia’s Volga Federal District, experienced a severe HPAI outbreak in a commercial turkey herd late last year.

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

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