Last week, the number of confirmed outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) on French farms for the 2021-2022 season exceeded 1,100.
According to the French Ministry of Agriculture, there were a total of 1,112 (as of March 31). In the past six days, the number of outbreaks had increased by 129. In addition, cases were observed in three other backyard herds, bringing the total in this category to 22.
During the past winter season, HPAI hit the French poultry sector hard. However, the virus serotype that was circulating last year belonged to the H5N8 family and appeared to affect duck and goose farms in south-west France in particular.
This year, however, the virus variant H5N1 is responsible for the infections, which has been detected in eight of the 13 regions of mainland France. Although the species of poultry is not always specified on each farm, infections do not appear to be limited to waterfowl. Farms in the western Pays de la Loire region, which are currently bearing the brunt of the virus attack, have been hit in recent weeks.
The latest official report from the French authorities describes 130 new outbreaks directly affecting more than 2.06 million poultry. This emerges from the latest communication to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). They increase the number of commercial poultry in France affected by HPAI since November 2021 to more than 10.9 million.
Europe’s poultry HPAI outbreaks exceed 1,100
As of March 26, 18 European countries had recorded one or more outbreaks in poultry so far this year. This emerges from the latest update of the European Commission’s (EC) animal disease information system. To this date, the system has recorded a total of 1,134 outbreaks for the year.
As more cases are discovered in the country, France now accounts for 938 outbreaks. That is about 83% of all outbreaks in Europe recorded using this system. With 31 outbreaks, Spain has registered the second-highest total for the year so far. Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland have now each confirmed between 23 and 29 HPAI outbreaks in 2022.
Throughout 2021, 1,756 outbreaks in poultry from 24 European countries were registered with the EC.
Other countries report new poultry outbreaks
In the last 10 days, the Veterinary Services in the United Kingdom (UK) have registered three more outbreaks of HPAI on farms. This involved a total of around 196,000 poultry – one flock each of laying hens and meat ducks in the east of England and another flock of laying hens in Scotland.
Based on information from UK Department of Agriculture Defra, they bring the number of outbreaks so far this season to 109, including 89 in different parts of England.
Meanwhile, HPAI of the same virus subtype has hit two other farms in Spain. The OIE report details new cases on two farms in the Seville area of southern Spain’s Andalusia region. They bring a total of 31 outbreaks in the country in the last three months.
At the end of March, HPAI was detected on a chicken farm in the Belgian province of West Flanders. The presence of the H5N1 virus was confirmed in a flock of around 18,800 birds, of which almost 200 died.
Recently, around 150 of the 177,440 laying hens died on a farm near Asenovgrad, according to OIE reports. This is the third HPAI outbreak at this owner’s farm since 2019, the National Food Safety Agency reports. Up until this latest outbreak, no new cases had been detected in Bulgaria since early December.
OIE has also been informed of new infections in non-commercial herds by the veterinary authorities of Denmark, Germany and Albania. Only in the Albanian outbreaks have poultry tested positive for the H5N8 virus variant.
Within days earlier this year, four large commercial turkey flocks in the Stravropol region of Russia’s North Caucasus Federal District became infected with HPAI. All affected sites were operated by the same company, AgroPlus, and were located in the same district. Of the 186,600 birds in total, 174,000 died and the rest were destroyed. According to the latest OIE notification, the Russian authorities now consider this outbreak to be over.
HPAI in Europe’s wild bird population
In the year to date, a total of 1,467 HPAI outbreaks in wild birds across Europe have been reported to the EC Animal Health System (as of March 26). This is an increase of 61 from the last update on March 19th. A little more than half of this came from Germany.
Albania reported its first outbreaks in the wild bird population to the EC in 2022, making 29 states that have now registered cases through this system this year.
Germany has detected the most outbreaks in wild species (760), followed by the Netherlands (286) and Denmark (76). Austria, Estonia, Finland, France, the Republic of Ireland, Romania, Spain and Sweden also confirmed new outbreaks with the EC in the past week.
For comparison: 31 European countries registered a total of 2,437 HPAI outbreaks in wild birds in the EU in 2021.
Since the country left the EU, the EC has stopped monitoring the disease situation in the UK. However, the Animal Health Agency has registered a further 129 cases of HPAI in wild species with the OIE.
View our ongoing coverage of the global avian flu situation.