Avian influenza or "bird flu" is a highly contagious viral disease which primarily affects birds, but on rare
occasions can also be contracted by humans and other mammals. There are many different strains and sub-types of the disease, some
more pathogenic and destructive than others.
The strain of avian influenza which is currently causing concern is highly pathogenic H5N1. It has affected many
countries worldwide, including parts of Asia, Africa and Europe. H5N1 can spread rapidly through poultry flocks and wild birds are
considered to be contributing to its spread around the globe. It does not jump easily from birds to humans. However
some cases of H5N1 in humans have been detected, where the affected person were known to have come into very close contact with infected birds.
The European Commission has stepped up preventive measures against avian influenza, in response to the threat of H5N1.
All Member States have increased their avian influenza surveillance and the Commission is providing co-funding for the monitoring of
wild birds and domestic poultry. Tighter bio-security measures to limit contact between wild birds and poultry, such as keeping poultry indoors, are in place in high-risk areas
in order to prevent or limit the spread of the disease. Furthermore strict EU measures are laid down which must be taken by a Member State in the event of an
outbreak in its country. EU legislation on avian influenza has been reviewed taking into account lessons learned in recent years and includes new measures such as authorising
preventive vaccination in very specific cases. EU import bans have also been placed on potentially risky poultry products and
susceptible imports from third countries with H5N1 outbreaks.
The animal health website provides detailed information on avian influenza and the response at EU level. The
public health pages deals with the threat H5N1 can pose
to human health, as well as EU action to prepare for a possible human influenza pandemic.
Animal Health aspects
Public Health aspects