Different strains of bird flu have been reported to the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) by nations around the globe over the Christmas period.
These include H5N6 in South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong, H5N8 in Russia and H5N1 in Bangladesh. They follow reports shortly before Christmas of cases of H5N8 in poultry in Italy, which involved 17,000 birds at a fattening farm in Emilia-Romagana region and two detections in wild birds of the H5N6 virus in the Netherlands.
Italy has experienced a second H5N8 wave of cases since July and a report by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) highlighted there had been 48 outbreaks in poultry and 9 highly pathogenic H5 detections in wild birds between 1 September and 15 November.
Epidemiological investigations have suggested that sharing of vehicles and personnel have led to the spread of the disease in densely populated poultry areas.
Meanwhile, the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has posted an update assessment regarding the H5N6 developments in the Netherlands, saying the discovery of the virus in mute swans is of concern because of their migratory patterns, which could cause a threat until February.
Defra is keeping the UK risk level for highly pathogenic avian influenza at medium for the time being, saying the focus was now on the potential spread of H5N6 virus rather than H5N8 which devastated Europe last winter.