A month ago Bulgaria reported an HPAI H5N8 outbreak (listed as simply HPAI H5 in the official OIE report) at a large chicken farm in General Toshevo, very close to the Romanian border.
A bit unusual, as while H5N8 continues to circulate in Iran, Iraq and parts of Africa, it has been largely absent this winter in Europe (see UK: DEFRA Avian Flu In Europe Update -Feb 14th).
The only real European exception has been Italy, which reported frequent H5N8 outbreaks last summer and fall, and more recently, several in March (see Italy: IZSV Reports 3rd H5N8 Outbreak In A Week).
What we've mostly seen is the slow spread of a new H5N6 virus this winter - a reassortment of H5N8 and a European HxN6 virus - and most of those have been found in wild birds.Today, however, we've a new report from the Bulgarian Agency For Food Safety announcing another outbreak of H5N8 at a duck farm - this time in the Southeastern part of the country - near Yambol.
On April 4 confirmed a new outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza type A H5N8 in livestock rearing of ducks, located Zimnitsa village, Municipality Straldja, District Yambol.
Immediately taken all measures to eradicate the outbreak in accordance with Regulation № SG-103 of 21 August 2006 on measures for prevention, control and eradication of avian influenza (flu) influenza and plan for urgent action upon detection of an outbreak of Influenza A in birds. The farm bred 6000 ducklings.
Expected actions of destruction of all birds in the affected holding to end on April 5.
Designated a 3km protection zone and 10km surveillance zone around the farm, they have imposed a ban on trade and movement of poultry, wild and other birds and eggs for breeding, organization of fairs, markets, shows and other gatherings of poultry or other birds.
They will be carried out clinical examinations in poultry sites and check for implementation of the biosecurity measures in poultry establishments located within the demarcated zones.
With H5N8 now circulating in both the Southern and Northern Hemispheres, and well entrenched in the Middle East and Africa, reintroductions by migratory birds are always possible.
Assuming that these two government reports are correct, and both outbreaks are actually due to HPAI H5N8, then this virus - which sparked a record shattering epizootic across Europe over the winter of 2016-17 - may have only temporarily retreated as a European threat.With summer approaching the risks tend to diminish, but this is something that we'll be watching closely when migratory birds return next fall.