Avian influenza is taking its toll in Europe where 190,000 ducks have been culled in the Netherlands and 200,000 hens slaughtered in Sweden in a scare which is gripping the northern European poultry industry.
According to the World Orginasation for animal health (OIE), 10 countries throughout Europe have been infected with the H5N8 virus. Countries affected include Austria, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and Russia.
In the Netherlands, the slaughter involved 6 farms, following the discovery of a virus in the village of Biddinghuizen, some 70 km (43 miles) east of Amsterdam. Initially 500 ducks succumbed to the H5N8 strain before officials decided to take preventative measures on neighbouring farms and associated businesses. Officials said they were checking for avian influenza at farms within 3 km of the original site and imposed a ban on transporting poultry products within a 10 km (6 mile) radius.
Measures have been stepped up in the Netherlands recently to stem the AI outbreak including closures of petting zoos and a ban on duck hunting. The world’s 2nd largest agricultural exporter, the Netherlands has more than 100 million hens, pigs, cows and sheep on high-intensity farms. This density makes the animals more vulnerable to disease outbreaks.
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In Sweden, traces of avian influenza was discovered on a farm in Morarp in Southern Sweden. Initially 37,000 were culled, then authorities decided that all 200,000 layers should be destroyed to minimise risk. The country confirmed its first case of H5N8 last week, when an infected wild bird was discovered in the Skane region.
Last month, scientists said that monitoring birds on their long distance migrations could provide early warning of avian influenza outbreaks. Researchers said avian influenza was carried by migrating birds from Asia to Europe and North America via the Arctic. Contact with infected wild birds or materials contaminated with their droppings was the most likely route of transmission.
The announcements of avian influenza in Europe has prompted some countries to close their borders to poultry products from affected countries.
: Information on the 40+ most common poultry diseases.