Without a vaccine, bird flu is “unstoppable”

Bird flu in Europe keeps getting worse, and with outbreaks now year-round instead of seasonal, the disease is becoming endemic.

As FairPlay has noted before, pressure is mounting from European Union poultry producers for the development of an acceptable vaccine to prevent the mass cullings which have ruined some farmers. However, as it is difficult to distinguish between a vaccinated bird and an infected one, many countries ban poultry imports from vaccinated flocks,

A report in the Guardian newspaper highlights the devastation that bird flu is causing in the Netherlands and France. It also notes that the increasing spread to mammals such as foxes, badgers and otters raises the risks for human infection.

“This is not a good situation because if mammals become infected, we are also mammals – it means the virus is coming closer to a jump to the human species than ever before,” said Dr Nancy Beerens, of Wageningen Bioveterinary Research in the Netherlands.

Dr Beerens noted that bird flu was now a year-round epidemic. “There were sometimes outbreaks in the winter, and not every year, but now we see the virus stays around all year, also in the summer,” she said.

This has intensified calls for a vaccine as the only way to stop bird flu. The report describes how the virus seems able to penetrate even to farms with the most intensive biosecurity measures.

Dr Beerens said initial results from vaccine trials conducted by Wageningen Bioveterinary research will not be available until December.

Image (above): A CDC scientist harvesting the H7N9 virus for research purposes. Image courtesy of the CDC.