Avian influenza

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:

  • Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI): spreads rapidly causing serious disease with high mortality (up to 100% within 48 hours) in most poultry species (except domestic waterfowl)
  • Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI): causing generally a mild disease, may easily go undetected

Latest Developments

On 28 October 2016 Hungary reported the detection of HPAI H5N8 virus in one wild bird (mute swan) that had been found dead at Lake Fehér-to in Csongrád County.

Since then the HPAI H5N8 virus was detected in wild birds in Poland, Croatia, Germany, Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Romania, France and Switzerland. The large majority of infected wild birds are migratory duck species (e.g. tufted duck) found dead at sea shores and lakes.On 4 November 2016 Hungary reported the first outbreak of HPAI H5N8 in poultry (turkeys) in Tótkomlós locality, Békés County, followed  by further outbreaks in duck and geese farms that are situated in an area with a high density of holdings. HPAI H5N8 outbreaks in poultry were then reported  from Austria,  Germany Denmark,  Sweden,  the Netherlands, France and Poland. In Germany, the Netherlands, France and Finland also other captive birds (e.g. zoos or decoy birds) became infected by the HPAI H5N8 virus. In all the affected Member States the virus was previously detected in wild birds. The veterinary authorities of affected Member States immediately took EU control measures (Council Directive 2005/94/EC) to possibly prevent virus spread to other holdings and established protection and surveillance zones around the infected holdings. The Commission calls for continued extreme vigilance and strict biosecurity on farms to prevent contacts between wild birds and poultry. It has adopted urgent protective measures in relation to these outbreaks. The disease situation and the measures adopted by the Commission are regularly reviewed during the periodical meetings of EU Member State experts at the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed. At the last Committee meeting on 30 November 2016 these measures were revised and consolidated in one Decision covering all areas under restrictions in the EU. A press release was issued following that meeting.

The current virus is related to the HPAI H5N8 virus that had caused several outbreaks in poultry during the 2014/15 bird migration period. It shows however some genetic changes that are also observed in the HPAI H5N8 virus detected in wild birds in Russia at the Mongolian border in June 2016. Laboratory examinations of viruses isolated from wild birds and poultry are continuing. The EU Reference Laboratory for avian influenza concluded that the virus is still predominantly a bird virus without any specific increased affinity for humans.

A detailed overview on the situation in Member States and the adopted measures is given in the Chronology of events and in a map.

The EU works closely with international partners in the fight against avian influenza. Regular contacts and information exchange occur between the European Commission, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).


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EU legislation

Surveillance for Avian Influenza


Emergency and control measures

Chief Veterinary Officers and EU-RLs

Human Health Implications

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza