EU veterinary experts met in Brussels this week to discuss the avian influenza situation in Asia and Russia (Siberia) and what steps should be taken in order to prevent the disease spreading to the EU.

The European Commission, which convened the meeting, said it has asked member states to step up surveillance and will make financing available in order to facilitate this effort.

A number of actions were agreed at the meeting, including a review of contingency plans and increased vigilance to ensure that existing measures such as import bans are fully enforced. However, a generalised ban on keeping poultry outdoors was not considered proportionate to the current risk of disease introduction through migratory birds.

“We clearly want to do our utmost to prevent the spread of this devastating epidemic to the EU. We will continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure that the most appropriate risk-reducing measures are in place,” said Markos Kyprianou, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection.

The expert group agreed that there is “cause for serious concern” about the bird flu situation in Asia and Russia. However, experts agreed that there was not enough information available to determine to what extent the spread of the disease might have been caused by wild birds. There was an extensive discussion on the possibility of the disease spreading into the EU via migratory birds.

“Taking into account existing knowledge of the migratory routes of the species of birds that might pose a risk of spreading the virus, the group concluded that the immediate risk is probably remote or low, depending on the area of the EU,” the Commission said.