Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut: bird flu is worse than ever in Europe

As of December 30, 2021 10:04 a.m.

Last winter had already brought a devastating wave of bird flu to Germany and Europe. According to the Friedrich Loeffler Institute, the situation is now developing even more dramatically – and the winter is still long.

Overlaid by the reports on the corona pandemic, another drama is currently playing largely unnoticed: “We are currently experiencing the strongest avian influenza epidemic in Germany and Europe,” the Friedrich Loeffler Institute (FLI) on the island of Riems told the news agency dpa with. New cases are added every day, and not just in wild birds. “There is no end in sight, the countries affected range from Finland to the Faroe Islands to Ireland, from Russia to Portugal.”

In Germany alone, 394 infections in wild birds such as wild ducks, wild geese, swans and gulls have been recorded since the beginning of October, mainly along the coast and particularly in Schleswig-Holstein. In addition, the FLI registered 46 outbreaks in poultry holdings, 18 of them in Lower Saxony alone. Other cases concerned North Rhine-Westphalia (9), Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (8), Schleswig-Holstein (4), Berlin / Brandenburg, Bavaria and Thuringia (2 each) and Saxony-Anhalt (1).

People are also potentially at risk

Reports are also coming from Canada, India and East Asia. The prospects for the coming winter weeks are not good, the Federal Research Institute for Animal Health said. The bird flu subtype H5N1 dominates, H5N8 also occurs to a small extent.

H5N1 is also considered to be potentially dangerous for humans; an infection can be fatal in rare individual cases. Only a few transmissions to humans have been recorded for H5N8. Human-to-human transmissions have not yet been proven for either subtype.

More than 100,000 chickens in the Czech Republic are affected

Across Europe, according to the FLI data, 675 infections in wild birds and 534 outbreaks in farms were recorded during this period. In addition, there are isolated cases of mammals: this year it has already been proven that red foxes in the Netherlands and Finland, gray seals in Sweden, seals in Germany and other otters in Finland have contracted bird flu.

Tens of thousands of chickens were killed in the Czech Republic after the bird flu virus was detected. According to the veterinary authorities, a total of 80,000 infected animals had to be culled after more than 100,000 animals had fallen victim to the disease on the farm in Libotenice north of Prague since the end of last week. The proven H5N1 virus is “very aggressive” and kills the animals at breakneck speed, said an official. Accordingly, more than a million eggs have to be destroyed.

Avian flu leads to a lack of eggs

Avian influenza is currently affecting other regions severely. The Israeli Ministry of Agriculture recently reported mass deaths in battery cages. Hundreds of thousands of animals were killed to prevent further infection. “The Ministry of Agriculture is concerned that people could be infected by infected battery cells near homes,” it said.

It is now expected that there will be a shortage of eggs on the Israeli market – around 14 million eggs are missing every month due to bird flu. According to media reports in Israel, about 20 percent of the cranes who come to Israel as migrating birds from southern Europe to stop there on their way to Africa are also affected by the disease.

Last winter will be surpassed

Avian influenza is an infectious disease, especially among water birds, which migratory birds often spread over long distances. In the previous season, from autumn 2020 to spring 2021 there had been a serious epidemic in Germany and Europe – which is now likely to be exceeded.

The most important preventive measure to protect poultry is control and compliance with biosecurity measures, said the FLI. Poultry farmers could use the traffic light below check. “No other measures are currently available.”

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