Avian influenza spreading rapidly in Europe

The risk of avian influenza moving into previously unaffected European countries is high, according to an update published by EFSA which shows that the virus is spreading rapidly across the continent.

Within the past month more than 300 cases have been reported in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The majority of the detections were in wild birds although there have been a handful of outbreaks in poultry. The new report rates the likelihood of the virus spreading from wild birds to poultry as high.

In its previous overview EFSA warned that highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) could spread quickly to western Europe following outbreaks among wild and domestic birds in western Russia and Kazakhstan this summer. The region is on the autumn migration route for wild water birds heading to Europe.

Nik Kriz, Head of EFSA’s Animal and Plant Health Unit, said: “Preventing further escalation of these outbreaks will require close cooperation between animal, public, environmental and occupational health authorities – in other words, a One Health approach – across Europe.”

National authorities are urged to continue surveillance of wild birds and poultry and to implement control measures to prevent human contact with infected or dead birds. Member States are also advised to enforce in their high-risk areas the risk mitigation and reinforced biosecurity measures.

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