Germany - Poultry and Products - 2009

GERMANY - The latest GAIN report from the USDA FOreign Agricultural Service is subtitled German Government Says Latest German HPAI Incident in Wild Duck Does Not Change Overall Risk.
calendar icon 23 March 2009
clock icon 4 minute read

Report Highlights

A case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in a wild duck was detected through the standard wild bird monitoring system in Germany and was confirmed on 6 March 2009. The bird was shot during a hunt at Lake Starnberg in Southern Germany and did not show any signs of illness. German veterinary officials consider this incident a singular event as no additional incidents were reported.

General Information

Backgound on current incident

As part of the ongoing routine wild bird avian influenza monitoring program samples were taken from 35 ducks and four Canada geese that were shot during a hunting event on 10 January 2009, close to Lake Starnberg in Bavaria, southern Germany. One of the duck samples tested 'mildly' positive for influenza A virus and was confirmed positive for high pathogen H5N1 avian influenza on 6 March 2009 by the German reference laboratory at the Friedrich Loeffler Institut (FLI).

After the confirmation, the local veterinary authorities (county veterinary office Starnberg) conducted a risk assessment. It concluded that the risk of spreading H5N1 into commercial poultry is low at the current time. It refrained from establishing a protection and surveillance zone. The reasons for their assessment were:

  • It is commonly accepted that the virus is present in the wild bird population.
  • The bird had been shot during flight and had not shown any signs of illness.
  • In the eight weeks since the bird had been shot, no further cases were detected, and
  • The poultry holdings in the area consist of small holdings and backyard hobby farms.

Thus there is little danger of transporting a virus from one farm to another. The Bavarian Office for Health and Food Safety, the Bavaria Ministry for the Environment, the German Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Consumer Protection (BMELV), and the European commission agree with this assessment.

Germany disagrees criticism regarding reporting period

Some press reports and the European Commission have criticized Germany for the long time (eight weeks) that elapsed between taking the samples and confirmation of the disease. German veterinary officials view this criticism as not justified. They stressed that this finding occurred as part of regular monitoring activities and that there had been no indication that the bird might be ill.

A spokesperson from Starnberg County stressed that the wild bird monitoring system was put in place to gain information about the prevalence of the AI virus in the wild bird population and not as a protection measure. As a result, samples rank lower on the priority list than those for other diseases or from sick or deceased animals when it comes to which samples are tested first. The samples arrived at FLI on 3 March and were confirmed positive on 6 March. The incident was notified to the OIE on 11 March 2009. The notification can be accessed by clicking here.

German AI risk assessment remains unchanged

The German reference laboratory Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (FLI) last updated its risk assessment on 23 February 2009. The FLI left the risk levels unchanged from the previous assessment from October 2008. In detail, the current FLI risk assessment states the following risk levels [see Note below]:

  1. Introduction of HPAI into Germany through – illegal imports from non-EU countries: high – wild birds: low – animal/product movement within the EU: moderate – people and vehicle movement from abroad: moderate – legal imports from non-EU countries: negligible
  2. Introduction and spread of HPAI that is already present in the country through – in country trade of water fowl moderate – wild birds: low – people and vehicle movement within Germany low.

The full risk assessment can be accessed by clicking here.

Note: The risks categories are defined as likely: circumstance can happen or could be reasonably expected; high: probability of this circumstance to occur is higher than average; moderate: probability is on an average level; low: probability is below average; and negligible: probability is so low that there is no need to look at this circumstance.

Further Reading

- You can visit the Avian Flu page by clicking here.
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