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 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
The two types of pathogenicity result in very different forms of disease, and should not be confused. The H5N1 strain of the virus currently causing concern in European Member States and worldwide is a highly pathogenic form of avian influenza.
Measures to prevent and control avian influenza are coordinated at EU level. There are preventive measures against avian influenza which must be implemented by all the Member States and surveillance for the disease has been increased. Prescribed measures must be enacted by national authorities if there is a suspected or confirmed case of highly pathogenic avian influenza in either wild birds or domestic flocks in their territories. EU import bans have also been placed on potentially risky poultry products and susceptible imports from third countries with H5N1 outbreaks.
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) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).