European avian flu outbreaks have been so scarce the past few years that the UK's DEFRA only published two updates (here and here) during all of 2019. But with 4 countries hit by HPAI H5N8 over the past two weeks (see HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE) , DEFRA is already on their 2nd update of 2020.
Today we are seeing reports of a second outbreak in Hungary (not covered in today's DEFRA update), involving more than 100,000 ducks. This (translated) update from from Hungary's NÉBIH (Department of Animal Health and Animal Welfare).
On January 14, the Nebih laboratory confirmed the presence of avian influenza on a duck farm in Beyvarves, Hajdú-Bihar County. The tests again showed the H5N8 subtype of the disease. Veterinary practitioners have already begun killing some 115,000 herds.
Also in the village of Létavértes in Hajdú-Bihar County, the Nebiha Laboratory identified yesterday a large-scale duck holding of about 115,000. Increased mortality was observed in the infected herd and clinical signs typical of the disease appeared.
The authority immediately took the necessary measures. Among other things, the killing of the infected herd has already begun on the basis of suspicion, and a 3 km protection zone and a 10 km surveillance zone have been designated around the farm.
Wild birds on the nearby lake may have played a role in the appearance of the disease. It is still mandatory to feed and water the poultry completely indoors, preferably indoors, and litter must also be stored in such a way that wild birds do not have access to it.
Mandatory enclosures will soon be added to the requirements, but due to the increased risk, it is already worthwhile for farmers to keep stocks indoors.
The H5N8 strain is dangerous to poultry. You can find out about the disease and the current information on the ever-changing site of the Nebih: https://portal.nebih.gov.hu/madarinfluenza
There are also rumblings in the Russian press today, warning that HPAI H5N8 may be headed to Southwestern Russia.
Excerpts from today's DEFRA report follow:
Updated Situation Assessment #8
Highly pathogenic avian influenza in Europe
14 January 2020
Ref: VITT/1200 HPAI in Europe
Since our last report on 7 January 2020 Poland has reported two more H5N8 HPAI outbreaks, and a case in a wild bird (hawk). Outbreaks of H5N8 HPAI have also now been reported in Slovakia (captive birds) Romania and Hungary (both poultry). Measures in accordance with Council Directive 2005/94/EC have been implemented, including killing of the birds, and disposal of the carcasses at all affected premises.
Poland has reported two outbreaks since our last report on 7 January (see map), one in poultry (14 week turkeys) in the western county of Mysliborski where H5N8 HPAI was detected following sampling due to increased mortality, over 22,000 birds have been culled. The second outbreak in Poland was in an establishment with over 5,500 commercial geese in Kolski region, central Poland. In Lubleskie, in the Protective Zone (PZ) around the first outbreaks, a single hawk was found dead on 06 January and tested positive for HPAI, however no infected wild waterfowl or other possible AI target species have been identified; the number tested is not known. These latest two outbreaks bring the total number in Poland this season to eleven.
Slovakia has reported its first H5N8 HPAI case of the 2019/20 season, on 09 January in a small backyard holding in the western county of Nitra of 22 poultry (free range hens). The hens had been kept at the holding since April 2018 with the eggs produced solely for consumption by the owner. There had been no trade or movements at this holding neither within nor outside Slovakia. There are no links to commercial poultry and disease control measures are in place.
Hungary confirmed its first outbreak of H5N8 HPAI on 12 January in a commercial poultry establishment (~53,000 turkeys) in the north western county of Komárom-Esztergom, close to the Slovakian border. Samples were taken following an increased mortality rate and the onset of respiratory symptoms in the birds (aged 13 weeks). Restriction zones have been established. H5N8 HPAI was last reported in poultry in Slovakia and Hungary in April 2017.
Romania confirmed its first outbreak of H5N8 HPAI on 14 January in a commercial poultry establishment, following the mortality of approximately 11,000 birds (from ~ 18,700 laying hens) in the north western county of Maramures, close to the Hungarian and Ukrainian borders. Culling is being undertaken. H5N8 HPAI was last observed in Romania in April 2017.
It is becoming more likely that the source of infection in these independent outbreaks will be contact with wild birds, although there has been some limited local spread in Eastern Poland. Wild bird surveillance in the EU relies on reporting of dead wild birds; the single hawk reported in Poland may have had access to contaminated / infected poultry within the protection zone rather than scavenging dead wild waterfowl. Therefore it may be presumed at present that not finding dead target species of wild waterfowl does not mean there is no circulating virus.
According to data available on TRACES, GB have not imported any live birds or eggs from the areas surrounding these outbreaks in the last few weeks.
The OIE/FAO international reference laboratory/UK national laboratory at Weybridge has the necessary ongoing diagnostic capability for these strains of virus, whether low or high pathogenicity AI and continually monitors changes in the virus.
Currently the risk of HPAI in wild birds in the UK is LOW (i.e. no change at present) but we are keeping this under review on a weekly basis.
Although these outbreaks in Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary are the first reports of HPAI in Europe so far this winter (in either domestic poultry or wild birds), this cannot be taken as reassuring regarding the risk for incursions to UK. Due to the lower numbers of H5 HPAI outbreaks observed in 2018/19, there may now be more limited immunity in the naive wild bird population to H5 viruses, with a large susceptible population of hosts in the form of juvenile birds migrating to the UK every autumn.
We recommend that all poultry keepers stay vigilant and make themselves aware of the latest information on www.gov.uk, particularly about recommendations for biosecurity and how to register their flocks.
We will continue to report on any updates to the situation and, in particular, any changes in disease distribution or wild bird movements which may increase the risk to the UK.
Further information is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu including updated biosecurity advice for poultry keepers for England;
https://gov.wales/avian-influenza for Wales and; http://gov.scot/avianinfluenza for Scotland.
Dr Lauren Perrin
Dr Francesca Gauntlett
Dr Helen Roberts
Dr Paul Gale