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Poultry operations need to always be on high alert

With the wild birds migrating from Siberia via Eastern Europe to Western Europe, the end of 2016 brought another avian influenza scare to Europe.


Along the migratory routes diseased birds were found, carrying the highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu strain. With the US situation in 2015 and the European situation in 2014 still top of mind, governments and poultry organisations were immediately on high alert.

Some countries acted thoroughly, with countrywide bans on farm visits and outdoor access for free range birds. Others wanted to have proof of contamination in the region first. Luckily contamination of commercial flocks where limited, besides an incident with a grandparent flock in Germany and a duck flock in the Netherlands. How these flocks became infected is still unclear, as biosecurity was very stringent.

Speculations on the source of oubreaks

Speculations point in the direction of over­flying birds dropping their droppings in ventilation shafts, but proof of that was never found. Indeed it is very worrying that even a highly secured grandparent facility cannot be protected against the avian influenza virus. That said, until now, extra precautions at all other farms did have an effect as further infections didn’t occur. Experts state that the wild bird virus will haunt us for months to come. The real danger is in a lapse in awareness. It is imperative that the poultry sector stays on high alert, even if commercial infections are not found. The virus is still out there!

One comment

  • G G Arzey

    Indeed interesting speculations.

    Studies generally point out that defecation occurs before flights commence and to a lesser degree when birds land at their destination.

    Is it physically possible for waterfowls to drop their droppings while flying considering the positioning of the legs over the vent area during the flight?

    The occurrence of the outbreaks in breeder flocks (not only in Germany) and predominantly in indoor commercial flocks only serves to remind us that the indirect route of virus introduction into poultry sheds plays as much, if not more of a significant role than the direct route. It is also a reminder to read the paper by Racicot et al ( <>) in order to understand the problems associated with long term compliance with biosecurity.

    Finally it is a reminder to evaluate the effectiveness of some biosecurity tools including foot-baths.

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