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
Between November 2014 and the end of February 2015 HPAI of the subtype H5N8 was detected in poultry, captive and wild birds in Germany, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Italy and in Hungary. In 2015 HPAI of the subtype H5N1 (the ‘Asian strain’) was detected in poultry and wild birds in Bulgaria, while in Romania this virus was found in wild birds only.
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:
- Culling 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 in the restricted areas, 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.
In relation to the detection of HPAI H5N1 in poultry and wild birds additional control measures are taken by the affected Member States.
The situation and the measures adopted by the Commission are regularly reviewed during the meetings of EU Member State experts at the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed, where Member States also agreed on a Statement on Avian Influenza concerning precautionary measures.
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:
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).