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Diagnostics and Surveillance

Avian Influenza Virus Survival in Poultry Commodities, Poultry Manure and the Environment

EC contribution
: € 870 000
: 36 months
Starting date
: 01/03/2007
: Avian influenza, poultry commodities, virus survival, bio-security measures, disinfection, cleansing operations, public health risk
Project Number
: SSPE-CT-2007-044311


Avian influenza (AI) outbreaks have recently caused severe losses to the poultry industry, its stakeholders and, ultimately, to the EU taxpayer. In addition, the ongoing Asian H5N1 outbreak is a serious concern for food security and human health worldwide.

In Asia, due to both social conditions and the particular characteristics of the H5N1 virus, the crossing of the species barrier represents a serious potential risk of a new human pandemic virus emerging. Evidence is growing that HPAI H5N1 is not only spreading by trade but is also carried by wild birds. H5N1-infected wild birds, mainly water fowl, have recently been detected in the European Union in Italy, Austria, Germany, France, Greece, Sweden and Poland. These findings are raising our awareness that H5N1 is becoming more and more endemic in wild birds. The finding of a cat, stone marten and raptors that died as result of infection with H5N1 has uncovered the consequences of this development.

More questions are being raised about the risk of contamination of surface water in relation to the health of other animals and humans. To answer these questions and to be able to assess the risks involved in trading in poultry commodities and litter, more knowledge about virus content of commodities, the stability of the virus in these products, in litter and the environment is needed.


The circulation of the HPAI virus in Asia and now also in the Middle East and Africa could represent the origin of a pandemic virus for humans, and a great number of questions have been raised with a view to finding a way to combat the ongoing AI crisis. Due to the lack of field and experimental data certain questions on virus survival in the environment and in poultry and other avian commodities are not yet answered and these knowledge gaps should be filled following the results of the ongoing and new research efforts of the scientific community.

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