EU - Emergency measures to combat bird flu have come into force in countries already reporting outbreaks - the Netherlands and the UK - and surveillance is raised in France. The virus in the UK has been confirmed as H5N8 and culling has begun on the affected farm. The nationwide poultry transport ban has been lifted in the Netherlands.
At a meeting earlier this week, the European Commission (EC) backed emergency safeguard measures to combat bird flu.
On 17 November, the Commission adopted two emergency safeguard Decisions addressed to The Netherlands and the UK that define the areas that have been placed under stringent veterinary restrictions by those Member States, and where measures according to EU legislation are applied.
The measures aim at quickly bringing the disease under control and at preventing the spread of the highly pathogenic avian influenza within the affected Member States, to other Member States and to third countries while minimising the disturbance to trade. A fact sheet with further information and both Decisions are available online.
On 17 November 2014 the Commission's interim protective measures adopted for the Netherlands and for the United Kingdom are due to be published on 19 November 2014.
Epidemiological investigations are ongoing to identify the possible source of virus, according to an EC Fact Sheet on the situation. The fact that the three recent outbreaks in Germany, The Netherlands and the UK have occurred in proximity of wetland areas with wild birds and the absence of any other possible epidemiological link between them point towards wild migratory bird as a possible source of virus. A species of wild swans might be carrying the virus without showing signs of disease. Member States concerned are evaluating their wild bird surveillance data and are enhancing monitoring. Consequently, the Commission has asked EU Member States to increase biosecurity on farms.
Draft decisions from the EC regarding the Netherlands and the United Kingdom mention that, to prevent unnecessary disturbance of trade within the Union and to avoid unjustified barriers to trade being imposed by third countries, it is necessary rapidly to define the protection and surveillance zones in the affected Member States.
According to the agriculture department in England, Defra, on 18 November, as part of the robust action in response to the confirmed case of avian flu, the culling of 6,000 ducks was underway on the affected farm in east Yorkshire. The cull is to prevent the spread of potential infection, and is being carried out in a safe and humane manner by fully trained Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) staff. The response to this outbreak follows tried and tested procedures for dealing with avian flu outbreaks and we expect the cull to be completed later today.
Additionally, the animal health laboratory at Weybridge has confirmed that the outbreak in East Yorkshire is the H5N8 strain. The advice from the Chief Medical Officer and Public Health England remains that the risk to public health is very low. The Food Standards Agency have said there is no food safety risk for consumers.
The United Kingdom notified the Commission of an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza of subtype H5 in a holding on its territory where poultry or other captive birds are kept and it immediately took the measures required pursuant to Directive 2005/94/EC, including the establishment of protection and surveillance zones, according to today's edition of the Official Journal of the European Union.
The Commission has examined those measures in collaboration with the United Kingdom, and it is satisfied that the borders of the protection and surveillance zones, established by the competent authority in that Member State, are at a sufficient distance to the actual holding where the outbreak was confirmed.
The avian flu virus has not been found during surveillance within the 10-km zone of the initial outbreak in Hekendorp near Utrecht, according to the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs.
As a result, the nationwide ban on the transport of poultry has been lifted.
However, the requirement to keep poultry under cover will remain in place for at least 30 days - until 18 December 2014 - to minimise the risk of new infections.
According to today's edition of the Official Journal of the European Union, the Netherlands notified the Commission of an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza of subtype H5N8 in a holding on its territory where poultry or other captive birds are kept and it immediately took the measures required pursuant to Directive 2005/94/EC, including the establishment of protection and surveillance zones.
As a precautionary measure and in order to evaluate the situation and minimise any risk of further possible spread from the confirmed outbreak the Dutch authorities have prohibited movements of live poultry and certain poultry products on the whole territory.
The Commission has examined those measures in collaboration with the Netherlands, and it is satisfied that the borders of the protection and surveillance zones, established by the competent authority in that Member State, are at a sufficient distance to the actual holding where the outbreak was confirmed.
The agriculture ministry in France stated on 17 November that, while no cases of bird flu have been detected in France, it issued a call for vigilance among professionals livestock and hunting, veterinary, the National Office for Hunting and Wildlife, the National Federation of Hunters and decentralized services of the Ministry already on 12 November.
The veterinary officials of member states are in contact and keep closely informed of the progress of the situation.
Stéphane Le Foll, Minister of Agriculture, food and forestry asked his services to mobilise and strengthen the monitoring processes. He also requested the national Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety, ANSES, to carry out a risk assessment for France.
The Department stands ready in case the disease is detected in France to enable the national health emergency response plan.
You can visit the Avian Flu page by clicking here.
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