Avian Influenza (AI) or "Bird Flu" is a highly contagious viral infection which can affect all species of birds and can manifest itself in different ways depending mainly on the ability of the virus to cause disease (pathogenicity) and on the species affected.
Influenza infections in birds are divided in two groups on the basis of their pathogenicity:
- Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI): spreads rapidly causing serious disease with high mortality (up to 100% within 48 hours)
- Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI): causing generally a mild disease, may easily go undetected
Recent Events - Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) of subtype H5N8 in EU Member States
From early November 2014, HPAI of the H5N8 subtype was detected in Germany, The Netherlands, United Kingdom and Italy. All affected Member States have immediately taken measures according to EU legislation on the control of avian influenza (Council Directive 2005/94/EC):
These measures require:
- Killing and safe disposal of the poultry present on the infected holding and cleaning and disinfection of the holding;
- Establishment of zones (protection and surveillance zones) around the outbreak; where movement of all live poultry and certain poultry products is restricted (including a ban to move poultry to other Member States);
- Keeping all poultry indoors, their close monitoring and applying strict disinfection measures;
- Epidemiological investigations to be carried out to identify the possible virus source and potential further virus spread from the affected holding;
- Evaluation of the situation in the individual Member State which – in particular in areas with a high density of poultry holdings – may lead authorities to take additional measures; such as ordering a temporary “standstill” for all poultry movements in the whole country or part thereof in order to allow for a quick assessment of the situation. It may also be advisable to ban the restocking of poultry holdings to lower the number of susceptible poultry in a given area.
More on legislation on avian influenza
Since the start of the outbreaks the Commission adopted several protective measures for the affected Member States which are published in the Official Journal of the European Union.
The situation and the measures adopted by the Decisions are regularly reviewed during the meetings of EU Member State experts at the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed. Given the current epidemiological situation Member States agreed on a Statement on Avian Influenza concerning precautionary measures.
A detailed overview on the situation in Member States and the adopted measures is given in the Chronology of Events available on a dedicated page.
Scientific aspects and risk assessment
To better understand the possible entry routes for the HPAI H5N8 virus in EU poultry farms and the findings in wild birds the Commission asked the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to issue a scientific report.
Regarding the possible risk posed by HPAI H5N8 to human health the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) issued a risk assessment risk assessment.
Further information on avian influenza prevention and control:
Surveillance for avian influenza in poultry and wild birds
Vaccination against avian influenza
Imports of poultry and poultry products
The EU works closely with international partners in the fight against avian influenza. Regular contact and information exchange occurs between the European Commission, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).