Avian flu outbreaks in early 2018

March 01, 2018 | 09:50
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The World Organization for Animal Health issued a notification of avian flu virus outbreaks in some European and Asian countries in early 2018.
avian flu outbreaks in early 2018
Various strains of avian influenza have been spotted across the globe

New type of bird flu discovered in Europe

In December 2017, the highly pathogenic avian influenza (bird flu) broke out on a duck farm in Biddinghuizen. The farm reported various symptoms of the disease and a high mortality rate.

A few days later, several dead swans and a single dead tufted duck were found near the Veluwemeer. Then, two hobby farms were also infected with the virus. The outbreak led so far to destroying more than 150,000 chickens in the Netherlands.

Samples from the duck farm, the hobby farms, and the wild birds were examined and it was concluded that this was a new virus subtype, H5N6. The H5N6 subtype, which could infect humans, has been discovered earlier in 2017 in Greece and various countries in Asia. To date, no humans have been infected with the Dutch H5N6 virus strain.

In early 2018, H5N6 was discovered in a dead wild bird in Switzerland, in a wild duck in Germany, and in several dead wild birds in the UK, and later in two larger groups (70) of dead wild birds.

However, the current bird deaths cannot be compared to the H5H8 epidemic of 2016-2017, when massive mortality rates were reported among wild waterfowl. Many commercial poultry farms all over Europe were hit by the bird flu epidemic of 2016-2017. The new H5N6 virus has only infected one commercial poultry farm in the Netherlands so far. However, the number of reports of H5N6 in Europe is increasing, so the strain seems to be spreading.

The UAE has banned all "non-heat-treated by-products" of live birds, ornamental birds, chicks, and hatching eggs. Then they added that thermally-treated poultry products (meat and eggs) from all parts of the Netherlands have been cleared for import.

Italy reported another highly pathogenic H5N8 poultry outbreak at a fattening turkey farm in Emilia-Romagna region. The virus killed 1,135 of 17,000 susceptible birds before culling was completed.

Spreading to Asia

Bird flu, or avian influenza (AI), is very infectious among poultry. As soon as bird flu is detected, the government takes measures to prevent the virus from spreading. This includes a ban on transporting poultry in the affected area.

South Korea discovered a new outbreak in Gyeonggi, next to Gangwon, where the 23th Olympic Winter Games were held. This country put on an alert on avian flu after discovering the H5N6 virus at a farm in Pocheon, 46 kilometres from Seoul.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), up to the end of January, there were approximately 1,700 people infected by H7N9 in China, around 650 of whom died. Thereby, Chinese agencies had to close the poultry market for 2-3 weeks to limit the spread of the virus.

In Vietnam, an outbreak of avian flu at Dai Ban commune, An Duong district, Haiphong city has just been detected. 3,000 of the 3,400 chickens were infected by H5N6. They were purchased from Thai Nguyen province without a certificate of transportation quarantine and were not vaccinated against bird flu. After the outbreak was detected, all infected chickens were destroyed.

According to the Vietnamese Department of Animal Health, the risk of bird flu arising and spread in the coming time is very high.

Some strains of the avian influenza virus (H7N9, H5N2, H5N8) are able to infect Vietnam through transport, trading, consumption or smuggled poultry products, especially in the northern border provinces and the provinces and cities with high consumption of illegal poultry products.

In February, the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has issued an urgent document to strengthen the prevention of avian flu and other influenza virus strains in the country. Thereby, all provinces need to actively prevent the influenza virus, strengthen inspection, and prevent illegal imports, as well as strictly monitor local poultry farms to detect and treat outbreaks in the shortest time possible.

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