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Avian Influenza - Introduction

Avian Influenza

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:

Recent Events - Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in EU Member States

In July 2015 HPAI of the subtype H7N7 was detected in poultry holdings in the United Kingdom and in Germany.From November 2014 to 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 March 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:

In relation to the detection of HPAI H5N1 in poultry and wild birds additional control measures are taken by the affected Member States.

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 Commission are regularly reviewed during the meetings of EU Member State experts at the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed.

A detailed overview on the situation in Member States and the adopted measures is given in the Chronology of Events, as well as the location of the outbreaks in 2014 and 2015 for all HPAI subtypes.

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).