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

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, but also the HPAI H5N5 subtype in a few cases, were detected in wild birds also in Poland, Croatia, Germany, Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, France, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy, Slovenia, Ireland, Spain and Portugal as well as in Switzerland, Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The large majority of infected wild birds are migratory duck species (e.g. tufted duck) as well as swans, sea gulls and birds of prey found dead at sea shores and lakes. On 4 November 2016 Hungary reported the first outbreak of HPAI H5N8 in poultry. Since then outbreaks have mainly affected duck, geese and turkey farms situated in areas with a high density of holdings. HPAI H5N8 outbreaks in poultry have since been reported from Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, France, Poland, Bulgaria, the United Kingdom, Croatia, Romania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Italy and Greece. In Germany, the Netherlands, France, Finland, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden also other captive birds (e.g. zoo birds, decoy birds, or birds of prey) became infected by the HPAI H5N8 virus. In almost all cases the virus was first detected in a Member State in wild birds, before it was detected in poultry farms. The veterinary authorities of affected Member States immediately took EU control measures (Council Directive 2005/94/EC) to possibly prevent virus spread to other poultry holdings and established protection and surveillance zones around the infected holdings. The Commission continues to call for maintaining 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 and specifically on biosecurity measures. 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.

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

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 HPAI H5N8 and H5N5 viruses are still predominantly a bird viruses without any specific increased affinity for humans.

The European Food Safety Authority is working on a comprehensive scientific opinion on avian influenza and has issued an interim scientific statement, in particular on biosecurity in relation to the current epidemic.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has published a risk assessment on public health.

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).


[Expand All]

EU legislation

Surveillance for Avian Influenza


Emergency and control measures

Chief Veterinary Officers and EU-RLs

Human Health Implications

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza