Monday, May 20, 2019

Belgium Orders Enhanced Surveillance & Testing For LPAI H3


 Two weeks ago, in Belgium: Non-Reportable LPAI H3N1 Continues To Spread, we looked at more than 2 dozen outbreaks of a Low Path avian H3N1 virus - which is not considered a reportable disease by the OIE -  in and around West Flanders. 
Since H5 and H7 are the only LPAI viruses considered reportable by the OIE, this outbreak would have likely gone unnoticed were it not for its unusually high mortality rate (said to be as high as 60% in some flocks).
LPAI H3 infections are not uncommon in birds - particularly ducks - but occasionally turn up in poultry, although H3N2 and H3N8 appear to be more common than H3N1. 

Since LPAI H3 isn't covered by the OIE's Terrestrial Animal Code Article 10.4.1. - and local protocols for dealing with a low path non-H5 or H7 avian virus are ambiguous at best - farmers have been waiting for guidance (and financial assistance) from the Ministry of Agriculture.

Today Animal Health Care Flanders (Dierengezondheidszorg Vlaanderen)
has published the following (translated) statement via the Ministry of Agriculture. 
The Ministry of Agriculture is taking urgent measures to prevent the spread of low pathogenic H3 virus

May 20, 2019

To prevent the further spread of the low pathogenic avian influenza virus type H3, the Ministry of Agriculture is prescribing a number of urgent measures from today. These apply to all Belgian poultry herds. We list them for you.
Measures to prevent contamination

From now on, the criteria of increased vigilance (= submission of samples to exclude AI and ND) must be interpreted at the level of the stable and no longer at the level of the entire herd. The criteria are:

  • a decrease in normal feed and water consumption of more than 20%;
  • a mortality rate of more than 3% per week;
  • a decrease of the lay by more than 5% that lasts longer than two days;
  • clinical signs or lesions in post-mortem examinations suggesting avian influenza.
In commercial poultry farms, the vehicles must be cleaned with an authorized biocide upon entering and leaving the company (this link contains a list of permitted products: ).
From now on it is both prohibited to load poultry from different origins on the same vehicle and to unload poultry from the same vehicle at several companies.
Access to a poultry house or hatchery is prohibited for all persons who do not belong to the company. The responsible party takes all necessary measures to that end.
This prohibition does not apply to:
  • the personnel required for operational management;
  • the vet;
  • employees of the Food Agency, other governments, and the people who work on their behalf.
All these people - but also those who work at the farm daily - must use proprietary or disposable boots and clothing before they enter the poultry house or hatchery. Everyone takes every precaution to prevent the spread of diseases.
Measures for companies that are already infected

For farms infected with H3, the manure, slurry and litter from the infected stables must be disinfected with an authorized biocide (see link to list above) and then processed or treated according to Regulation (EC) No 1069/2009 ( animal by-products regulation).

At present, the presence of an H3 virus has been detected at 38 companies spread across West and East Flanders.

If you have any questions about this low pathogenic virus, please contact your company veterinarian or the DGZ Helpdesk on 078 05 05 23 or
While the number of new farms affected appears to be slowing, there is obviously considerable interest in what has made this particular LPAI H3 variant unusually virulent.

Hopefully we'll see a thorough genetic analysis published in the weeks ahead. 

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