Hungary loses avian influenza-free status as virus returns

Outbreaks reported in four counties
calendar icon 28 November 2023
clock icon 2 minute read

Although Hungary regained its avian influenza free status on July 28, 2023, the disease has returned, according to a recent US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report.

In November 2023, animal health authorities confirmed primary outbreaks of the H5N1 strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in four counties. The epidemic is sweeping across Eastern Hungary. Control and quarantine measures are in place, but further cases are expected around the affected localities and in the neighbouring counties as they are along stopover spots of migratory birds.

The most likely source of infection is migrating animals because autopsies of wild birds, common cranes found dead in the counties of Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén, Csongrád-Csanád, Hajdú-Bihar, and Pest
also proved the presence of the same H5N1 serotype. Therefore, further cases are expected around the affected localities and in the neighboring counties as they are close to stopover spots for migratory
birds or along the major bird migration routes across the country.

Consecutive HPAI outbreaks have been a challenge for farmers, but Hungary’s poultry sector has adjusted. 

The country’s production is less affected by the epidemic due to the quarantine measures and the fact that closed production systems are widely used - particularly in the broiler industry. Stable domestic demand and capacity increasing investments helped the sector. At the same time, 15% of poultry producers left the business last year - even though the average farm gate price of chicken is 18.6% higher now than in the same period of 2022. This departure of producers from the market is primarily caused by the concentration of the country’s livestock and poultry industries. 

As ongoing developments and concentration help efficiency, a moderate rebound is expected in Hungary’s chicken production in 2023 despite the recurrent infections of avian influenza. 

HPAI outbreaks and import bans on Hungarian poultry products – currently introduced by 20 non-EU countries – minimally affect Hungarian chicken production because exports are mainly destined for EU countries. These member states apply regionalization and the WOAH’s terrestrial animal health code, which allows exports from non-infected areas.

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