H5N8 Avian Flu Virus Entry to Europe Highlights Need for Preparedness

EUROPE - There are similarities in how the highly pathogenic H5N8 and H5N1 avian flu viruses entered the continent, a new pan-European study shows.
calendar icon 22 December 2014
clock icon 3 minute read

A group of researchers from across Europe, led by Cornelia Adlhoch of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in Stockholm, Sweden, has compared the introduction to Europe of the highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses A(H5N8) in 2014 with that of the A(H5N1) virus in 2005.

In a paper in Eurosurveillance, they conclude that the current simultaneous occurrence of the H5N8 virus in different European countries is comparable to the introduction of A(H5N1) in the previous decade.

These similarities may point to common routes of introduction into Europe, they say, although these are not fully understood and the exact sources of infection of the affected indoor poultry holdings have not been identified yet.

More outbreaks seem possible, the authors warn.

They add that, although the H5N8 virus might have the potential to transmit to humans, no human cases have been detected so far.

Adlhoch and co-authors stress that, based on the experience from HPAIV A(H5N1) in Europe, efficient biosecurity, early detection and stringent control measures can minimise the risk of spill-over transmission to humans.

The rapid geographic dispersion of yet another reassortant highly pathogenic avian influenza A virus underlines the need for enhanced preparedness, they added.


Adlhoch C., Gossner C., Koch G., Brown I., Bouwstra R., Verdonck F., Penttinen P. and Harder T. 2014. Comparing introduction to Europe of highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses A(H5N8) in 2014 and A(H5N1) in 2005. Euro Surveill. 2014;19(50):pii=20996.

Further Reading

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