From June to September 2022, more cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) were reported in wild and domestic poultry in Europe “than ever before in the summer months”. Various EU authorities and laboratories have come to this conclusion.
But in previous years, experts were unable to identify any or only a few cases in the summer months. A now-published report summarizes the “2021/22 season of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) marked by the largest epidemic in Europe to date”.
The virus is persistent in wild birds
According to the European Food Safety Authority, a total of 788 cases of HPAI were reported in 16 EU/EEA countries and the United Kingdom between 11 June and 9 September 2022; Of these, 56 were domesticated birds, 22 were captive birds, and 710 were wild birds. In this context, it is emphasized that “extraordinarily high persistence” in wild birds in 15 European countries persisted throughout the summer.
The highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus has even reached seabird breeding colonies on the North Atlantic coast. In Germany, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom in particular, a “mass mortality of birds” has occurred.
In this context, the European Food Safety Authority notes that highly infected wild birds also pose a constant risk to domestic birds. During the observation period, the number of poultry outbreaks decreased compared to the previous months.
However, the numbers were about five times higher than in the same period last year. With a total of 2,467 outbreaks in poultry and 47.7 million animals culled on affected farms, “the highly virulent avian influenza season marked the largest epidemic in Europe to date,” according to the European Food Safety Authority and the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, 187 cases were reported in captive birds and 3,573 cases of HPAI were recorded in wild birds.
Leap across the Atlantic Ocean
According to the European Financial Supervisory Authority, there is also cause for concern that the affected area is now larger than ever: “The geographical scope of this year’s epidemic is unprecedented.” A total of 37 European countries are affected; These ranged from Spitsbergen in Norway to southern Portugal and Ukraine.
According to the European Food Safety Authority, the HPAI-A (H5N1) virus also made the leap across the Atlantic for the first time in the fall of 2021. It spread along bird migration routes between Europe and North America and triggered a “serious epidemic” in several Canadian provinces and US states. As a result, many wild birds died. In conclusion, the European Food Safety Authority recommends the rapid implementation of appropriate and sustainable HPAI containment strategies, which have included appropriate biosecurity measures and early detection strategies.
Medium- and long-term prevention strategies should be considered in densely populated areas and in poultry farms where there is a particularly high risk of exposure to highly pathogenic avian influenza.
In the meantime, the commission appears to have few new approaches to fighting the epidemic in the drawer.
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