UK/EUROPE – In response to the greatest avian flu outbreak ever, the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU) have culled over 48 million birds.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has stated that between 11 June and 9 September 2022, 788 HPAI virus detections were reported in 16 EU/EEA countries.

Additionally, in the UK, there were 56 detections of the virus in poultry, and 22 and 710 in captive and wild birds respectively.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is a virus that causes disease in birds. There are two forms of avian influenza, however the high pathogenicity form has greater severity compared to the low pathogenicity (LPAI) form.

Domesticated birds are constantly at risk of contracting an infection from infected wild birds.

According to EFSA, the number of domestic bird outbreaks between June and September 2022 decreased compared to earlier months but increased by more than five times from the same time last year.

“With cases detected in poultry and wild birds up to September, the current epidemic is clearly still ongoing.

“As autumn migration begins and the number of wild birds wintering in Europe increases, they are likely at higher risk of HPAI infection than previous years due to the observed persistence of the virus in Europe,” said Guilhem de Seze, Head of the Risk Assessment Production Department at EFSA.

In comparison to the 26 instances of HPAI reported in 2020–2021, 161 cases of the illness have been reported in poultry and captive birds in the UK in 2022.

As a result, 3.2 million birds have been culled in the UK alone. The UK government has labelled the culled birds as a “small” proportion of poultry production which obtains around 20 million birds a week.

EFSA has advised the quick adoption of appropriate and long-term HPAI mitigation measures to lessen the spread of the virus. These include adequate biosecurity precautions and early detection surveillance tactics.

The regulator also encourages medium- to long-term preventative measures in places with a high population density and chicken production systems that are particularly vulnerable to avian influenza exposure.

“Vigilance is needed to identify infections with influenza viruses as early as possible and to inform risk assessments and public health action,” Andrea Ammon, Director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) told the BBC.

Avian influenza was first discovered in 1996 in geese farms in Guangdong province, southern China.

By infecting various wild bird populations and spreading through Asia’s poultry farms, the highly dangerous strain of avian influenza known as H5N1 eventually reached Europe.

Even though there haven’t been many incidents of the disease infecting humans, it’s crucial for anyone who works with birds to protect themselves against exposure, as reported by New Food Magazine.

According to the ECDC, there is little to no risk of infection among the EU/general EEA’s population and low to moderate risk for those who are exposed due to their jobs.

By June 2022, the number of commercial birds affected by the virus in USA had reached 39,364,200.

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