With the knowledge that it is always flu season somewhere, the large poultry production regions in the western hemisphere are preparing for the next flu season. Or at least should be.
As there are more and more warning signs. European poultry farmers will have to be on their guard against a range of different strains of bird flu over the next few months as the autumn migratory season is well underway. They will have to watch out for H5N8 High Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), which has continued to persist in the environment, most notably in poultry in northern Italy and in wild birds in Italy, Switzerland, Britain and Germany.
Experts from APHA, the British animal and plant health agency, have argued that it is important to note the pattern of H5N8 HPAI emergence in 2014 when the virus was observed in Japan and South Korea in wild birds and a few months later was detected in Europe and North America. They say that ‘If the same pattern of wild bird transmission occurs this year, we might expect to see expansion in the range of newly introduced H5N6 HPAI potentially to similar areas – as it was reported in high numbers of migratory birds in Japan over the summer together with waves of infection in poultry in the Republic of Korea.’
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Within this turmoil of existing and new threats it is imperative to be on guard. Farm biosecurity is essential as farms with insufficient biosecurity are at particular risk. The International Egg Commission’s (IEC) Avian Influenza Global Expert Group urges to maintain strict protocols.
The IEC has stepped up its work on AI and has opened up channels with the World Health Organization in light of concerns about the H7N9 virus and its links to human health. While most types of AI will only have an effect on local or regional poultry production, an outbreak of H7N9 could lead to human infections as well. With that risk in mind, eradication schemes by governments will have the probability to surpass even the worst case scenarios the poultry sector has nightmares about.