EU avian influenza detections delayed - EFSA

Higher risk still expected in upcoming months
calendar icon 19 December 2023
clock icon 2 minute read

In recent weeks, detections of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses in wild birds in Europe have risen, although the increase began later than in previous years. This is possibly due to a delay in the autumn migration of several waterbird species, according a news release from the European Commission. As circulation of the virus among wild birds increases over the winter period, so too does the risk of outbreaks in poultry establishments.

These are the findings of the the latest quarterly report on avian influenza by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and the EU reference laboratory (EURL).

Between September 2 and December 1, HPAI outbreaks were reported in domestic (88) and wild (175) birds across 23 European countries. The results are in line with trends forecasted by EFSA’s Bird Flu Radar, a tool providing weekly predictions of the probability of HPAI introduction in wild birds.

The report notes that seven out of the 11 variants (genotypes) of HPAI virus identified in Europe were new and affected different wild bird species, particularly common cranes. HPAI was detected in wild birds and mammals in the Antarctic region for the first time.

ECDC assessed that the risk of infection with HPAI virus in Europe remains low for the general public, and low to moderate for occupationally or otherwise exposed people to infected birds or mammals (wild or domestic). To further reduce the risk of infection, experts recommend avoiding exposure to dead or diseased seabirds or mammals.

The EFSA recently published its Annual report on surveillance for avian influenza in poultry and wild birds. The report summarises the results of surveillance activities carried out in Europe in 2022. EFSA has also launched a call for the establishment of an active surveillance network for HPAI across Europe.

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