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EU bird flu outbreak is the worst in Europe’s history

The European Commission has announced that this season’s outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is the largest that Europe has experienced.

Poultry World said a scientific report by the Commission also stated that bird flu was now endemic in wild bird populations in Europe, so poultry farmers could expect outbreaks throughout the year in future, with the highest risk in the autumn and winter months.

This has implications for South Africa and other countries on the wild bird migration route.

The report, “Avian Influenza overview March – June 2022” said that, based on national reporting to the European Commission, there were a total of 2398 outbreaks during the 2021/22 season, with 46 million birds culled in the affected establishments. There were 168 detections in captive birds and 2733 highly pathogenic avian influenza events in wild birds in 36 European countries.

Between 16 March and 10 June 2022, 1182 highly pathogenic avian influenza virus detections were reported in 28 EU/EEA countries and the UK with 750 of these in poultry, 410 in the wild and 22 in captive birds. During this most recent reporting period, 86% of the poultry outbreaks were secondary infections due to the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza between farms.

Of the poultry outbreaks, the worst affected country has been France with 68% of all recent cases, while Hungary saw 24% of cases. No other EU country reached more than 2%. However, the greatest number of detections in wild birds were reported in Germany (158), followed by the Netherlands (98) and the UK (48).

The report said that medium to long-term strategies for reducing poultry density in high-risk areas should be considered. 

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