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AI H5N8 spreads rapidly throughout Europe

Avian Influenza A5N8 is rapidly spreading throughout Europe. 17 countries now have reported cases, according to the latest report of the international organisation for animal health OIE.

Hungary is topping the list while Ireland is the last country to find the virus in wild birds. In France, nearly 100 commercial farms have been infected, mainly duck farms in the far south-west area, forcing the government to order a compulsory cull of over 800,000 young ducks, the second such measure in under a year. Poultry has to be kept indoors in almost every European country while gatherings of poultry are forbidden almost everywhere.

Compulsory confinement of poultry

The first case of H5N8 in Europe was found at the end of October last year in a wild swan in Hungary, shortly followed by infections at a commercial poultry farm in the same country. Since then, cases have been found in both migrating birds and commercial flocks in 17 countries including Germany, Holland, France, a number of Eastern European countries such as the Czech Republic and Slovenia and lately also in most parts of Great Britain and in Ireland. So far, only Belgium seems not to have any cases. Most effected is Hungary within the first week of January over 200 cases, followed by Germany with over 150 cases, mostly in wild birds, and France which in the first week of January reported just under 100 infected commercial farms as well as a number of cases in wild birds. In all those countries, authorities have ordered a compulsory confinement of poultry, strict precautionary hygiene measures as well as transport restrictions.

Mass culling

Although in most countries commercial farms have been hit hard, the duck industry in France seems to be the most affected. The epidemic comes just a few months after a massive outbreak of another string of the virus, H1N5 in the far southwest of the country, the main area for the production of duck paté or foie gras. Here, many hundred thousands of ducks are held in the open air. Last spring, the government in Paris ordered a mass cull and compulsory so-called empty period to clean and disinfect hundreds of premises. Now, the department of agriculture announced a second mass cull of over 800,000 ducklings and ducks. According to the organisation for the foi gras industry Cifog, the initial costs will be some €80 million. However, that does not include the economic losses because of the lower production, which in the previous epidemic amounted to some €500 million. ‘’This is another catastrophe, the sector is at the brink of collapse,’’ Cifog states.


  • Stephen Adejoro

    I believe that in developiing countries with declining net inflow of revenue and lack of financial muscles to implement the stamping out and compensation, a synergy of vaccination with biosecrity and compulsory AI insurance will step down the escalating waves of Avian influenza

  • Stephen Adejoro

    Read more of Dr Stephen Adejoro articles on Ai mitigation in developing countries and the critical role mycoxin play in numerous viral infexctions and antibiotic resistances in www.engormix .com

  • Pedro Silva

    We have to confine our birds again. The so called free range is the door way for the avian influenza. i belive it´s better to have healthyer commercial flocks inside close farms with restriction in moves than infected birds held in the open air so they can be happy. a big LOL to free range supporters

  • Matt Sylte

    I believe the AI virus affecting France in the last paragraph is misrepresented and should read H5N1, not H1N5.

  • G G Arzey

    Pedro's comments are intriguing considering that:
    1. All H5N8 outbreaks in commercial chickens (not mixed with ducks) in Europe have been reported in indoor flocks and far worse- in biosecured elite breeder flocks in Germany and Israel.
    2. The outbreak in FR ducks/ geese etc only serve to remind us that wild duck and geese are attracted to their domestic cousins.
    3. Indeed the odd outbreak of H7N7 was reported in free range layers in Italy in 2016 and in the UK in 2015 but considering the massive expansion of the sector, these cases only reflect their relative numbers rather than vulnerability.
    4. A predominantly indoor layer flocks housing in Canada (98%) has not prevented repeated outbreaks in indoor flocks including biosecured breeder flocks.
    5. The predominantly indoor layer housing (97%) in the USA has not spared this country from massive outbreaks in indoor layers and indoor turkey flocks.
    7 It would be more productive to pay attention to to the details of the outbreaks rather than LOL.

  • Pedro Silva

    My man if you say that i belive in your words. In terms of logic who do you think is more suitable to catch diseases: animals who have no contact with wild life animals or animals that have all the contact in the world with their wild, as you say "cousins"? proof of thought. And a big shout LOL. And don´t forget it´s a new year it`s a new day. :)

  • G G Arzey

    J.M Barry in the book ‘The Great Influenza’ wrote; ”The commitment to logic with man’s ambition to see the entire world in a comprehensive and cohesive way may actually impose blindness on science…., “ Indeed a new year and a timely reminder that reality does not follow human logic.

  • brian mccoy

    Stephen, You mention compulsory AI insurance. Could you recommend a good source for such insurance (in USA)? Thanks.

  • HK Muniyellappa

    Migratory birds are spreading the AI infection across various countries and poultry farms. Since 1997 and more frequent outbreaks in various countries from 2003 onward the disease has become endemic. The stamping out policy being adopted by several countries providing only temporary control and containment of infection. Annually the frequency of outbreaks are being increasing and huge numbers of birds in the affected zone are being culled. With this 1) either the control policy is able to serve any purpose of effective control of infection or reducing the losses.
    2) The virus is having huge reservoir in the nature.
    What should be individual country/ global response to this recurring problem?

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