Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Netherlands: More Dead Swans - WHO Calls For Public Awareness On Avian Flu


While we've not seen anything like last year's rapid spread of HPAI H5 so far this winter, we're seeing more reports of dead swans in the same area where a newly reassorted H5N6 virus was reported 11 days ago (see Netherlands Rijksoverheid: H5 Outbreak (Likely HPAI) In Biddinghuizen) in the local media .
Yesterday we learned that the Scharrel Mountain Zoo in Biddinghuizen had been forced to cull 40 birds, and other zoos and animal parks in the area were either barring visitors or increasing biosecurity.
The following (translated) media report indicates that several dead swans (and other birds) continue to be collected in Harderwijk, less than 10 miles from the initial outbreak. 
More dead swans in and around Harderwijk

HARDERWIJK - Powerless. Thus the volunteers of the Animal feel in Harderwijk. Since the outbreak of bird flu at a zoo in Biddinghuizen rains reported in and around Harderwijk dead swans and other birds.

"There are too many," sighs Cor Lubbers of the Animal Ermelo Harderwijk. Lubbers attributed the findings to bird flu.

Saturday a dead swan was found near the town hall. Also two coots had kicked the bucket. Lubbers: "In the polder direction Biddinghuizen went also to two dead swans and we also got reports from Zero Beach and the beach here."
"Sometimes we are too late '

The Animal Harderwijk has as many dead birds, Lubbers stressed. "But sometimes we are too late. This weekend was a swan nothing left completely stripped bare by a bird of prey. There were only springs. What is collected goes to a rendering plant. '

Lubbers continues: "You can do very little at times like this. Yes, people can continue to transmit messages. Should they continue to do so. "

The Animal Ermelo Harderwijk displays all instances by the NVWA. "We fill in online forms. But they only come into action when more than two birds are found together. "

Meanwhile WHO Europe has issued the following statement urging continued public awareness on the ongoing threat from avian flu.
Public awareness of avian influenza needed as migratory birds return to Europe


WHO/Nicoletta Di Tanno

WHO/Europe calls on the public to remain vigilant about avian influenza virus outbreaks in poultry and wild birds. Since some avian influenza viruses can infect humans, it is important that people in countries experiencing outbreaks take protective steps and avoid unnecessary contact with sick and dead birds.

European countries stay alert after a major outbreak of avian influenza virus last winter

Between October 2016 and April 2017, a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus subtype, A(H5N8), caused the largest outbreak in poultry and wild birds ever recorded in some European countries. Millions of birds were culled as a consequence. Long-distance migratory wild birds were identified as the likely vehicle that brought the virus to the WHO European Region.

This year, after the return of migratory birds to their wintering grounds, 4 countries in the Region (Bulgaria, Germany, Italy and the Russian Federation) detected A(H5N8) in domestic poultry and/or wild birds. This is according to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) for 1 October–6 December 2017.

The FAO will issue the next update on 3 January 2018. Close collaboration between public health, veterinary and environmental authorities is crucial to ensure rapid detection of A(H5N8) in poultry and wild birds and to protect human health.

Avian influenza viruses and risk for human health

Avian influenza viruses can rarely cause disease in humans. Human infection is mostly linked with contact to live or dead infected birds, or their environments. No human cases were reported during the influenza A(H5N8) outbreaks in 2016–2017, despite large-scale human exposure to infected birds, and the risk of transmission from animals to humans was assessed as low.

“However, avian influenza viruses warrant close monitoring given their ability to change and pass from animals to humans, creating a potential for a new pandemic,” says Dr Dorit Nitzan, Health Emergencies Coordinator at WHO/Europe. People in countries experiencing outbreaks are advised to adopt simple measures to protect themselves.

Public health advice
  • Avoid contact with any birds (poultry or wild birds) and report sick or dead birds to responsible authorities.
  • Do not touch birds or carcasses with bare hands. If you must handle a carcass, wear gloves or use an inverted plastic bag to collect the bird. Make sure to wash hands properly with soap and water or use a suitable disinfectant after handling.
  • Follow good food safety and food hygiene practices in line with WHO’s Five Keys to Safer Food Programme, such as cooking poultry or wild birds thoroughly at sufficiently high temperatures.
Since H5N8 still circulates in Italy, Africa, and the Middle East, and the Asian version of H5N6 along with H7N9 continue to plague Chinese poultry, it is premature to assume this new H5N6 virus will be the only avian flu virus to wing its way into Europe this winter. 
Plus, as we saw last last year with H5N8, there is always the possibility of seeing additional reassortant viruses - spawned by this new H5N6 virus - emerge in the months ahead. 
If there is any constant with avian flu, it is its remarkable ability to continually surprise us.

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