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November 21, 2016

EU urges “vigilance” to contain bird flu outbreaks

The European Commission today (21 November) urged EU member states to "remain vigilant and enforce bio-security measures", following outbreaks of bird flu in poultry and wild birds across Europe.

The European Commission today (21 November) urged EU member states to “remain vigilant and enforce bio-security measures”, following outbreaks of bird flu in poultry and wild birds across Europe.

The announcement comes after several international markets placed import restrictions on German poultry following an outbreak of bird flu in the country reported last week.

However, a Commission spokesman for health, food safety, environment, maritime affairs and fisheries told just-food there is as yet “no official confirmation” of any internal restrictions being placed on the trade in poultry between EU member states. 

The spokesperson said following the first reported bird flu outbreak in Hungary, which was notified to the Commission on 4 November, “there have been six further outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) of the subtype H5N8 in the same area”.

In total, the spokesperson said there have been 16 confirmed outbreaks of H5N8 in poultry in five EU countries: Hungary, where there were seven; in Germany, where there were also seven; and one in each of Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands.

The virus has also been found, in wild birds only, in seven EU states and Switzerland. Investigations are ongoing. “All affected  countries took the necessary measures,” the spokesperson said.

“With the exception of Hungary, most outbreaks have occurred in backyard (domestic) flocks, where bio-security levels are generally lower,” the spokesperson added. “Member states have been urged to be vigilant and to enforce bio-security measures to possibly prevent contact between wild birds and poultry by putting poultry indoors.”

The spokesperson said tests conducted by the EU reference laboratory for avian influenza “concluded the virus is still predominantly a bird virus without any specific increased affinity for humans”.

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