June 14, 2024

Hope for immunity against avian influenza | free press

An unprecedented wave of bird flu has spread globally. Even penguins in Antarctica are no longer safe from the virus. In this country, the wave has been flatter lately. How is that?


After an unusually strong summer wave of bird flu in wild birds, expert Tim Harder sees signs of a certain immunity among animals in the previously weak fall and winter wave. From the beginning of October until just before Christmas, fewer than 90 cases were recorded nationwide, the head of the national reference laboratory for avian influenza at the Friedrich Loeffler Institute (FLI) near Greifswald told dpa. “This is very little compared to last year.” There were several hundred.

“So one wonders what could be the cause. Unfortunately, we don’t have a definitive answer either.” But one hopes that migratory birds may have brought with them a certain immunity. The current virus variant has prevailed for a long time, that is, since the spring of 2021. “This is one of the main points on which we base our hopes.” Antibodies have also been detected in live animals.

Widespread spread of the virus between October 2021 and March 2022 could have boosted immunity. According to Harder, the infection rate in wild birds in Europe was also below the level of previous years.

The largest avian influenza epidemic observed in Europe

However, the ongoing avian influenza epidemic is the largest observed in Europe to date, the European Food Safety Authority announced last Tuesday. Because of the unusually high rate of infection in the past summer, it was not possible to clearly separate the epidemics, which usually focus on the cold season, from one another.

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For the first time, such a wave had reached South America in the fall, Harder said. For example, there are cases with pelicans and poultry farms. Peru and Venezuela are affected, as well as Ecuador and Colombia. Brazil certainly has the greatest interest in fighting the virus. There are still no known cases in the country. But it is the largest exporter of chicken meat in the world. “There is definitely a red alert.” Only the continents of Australia and Antarctica were not affected. Looking at Antarctica, he worried that the virus could be transmitted from South America. Then even the penguin stock there would be in danger. (dpa)