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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Latest on Bird Flu and Wild Birds in Europe

Here's the press release:

Brussels, 31 May 2006
Avian Influenza: Results of EU surveillance in wild birds presented

The European Commission and the Community Reference Laboratory (CRL) for Avian Influenza in Weybridge have published the results of the surveillance for avian influenza in wild birds carried out in the EU over the past 10 months. The extensive epidemiological data was presented today at the FAO/OIE International Scientific Conference on Avian Influenza and Wild Birds, which is taking place in Rome this week. Although final figures are still being collected for February-May 2006, it is estimated that around 60 000 wild birds were tested for avian influenza in the EU during that period. This, combined with the 39 000 wild birds tested between July 2005-January 2006, means that almost 100 000 tests for the H5N1 virus have been carried out on wild birds over the past 10 months. Since February 2006, over 700 wild birds across 13 Member States have been found to be infected with the H5N1 “Asian strain” of avian influenza. However, a positive decline in the incidence of the disease in wild birds in Europe has also been noted over the past weeks.

Markos Kyprianou, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, said “Extensive surveillance for avian influenza in wild birds and poultry has been one of the key tools used by the EU to fend off the virus over the past months. It is a fundamental component in minimising the introduction and spread of this disease which poses a serious threat to animal and public health. The Commission and the Member States are continually working to improve the preventive measures already in place against avian influenza, so as to ensure that we have the tightest possible defences against it. We cannot let down our guard when it comes to avian influenza, as it is likely to remain a threat for Europe and the rest of the world for many months to come.”

Between February 2006 and 21 May 2006, 741 cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (most of them confirmed as H5N1) have been detected in wild birds in 13 Member States – Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Hungary, Austria, Germany, France, Slovakia, Sweden, Poland, Denmark, Czech Republic and UK. There have been only four outbreaks of H5N1 avian influenza in poultry in the EU, and all of these were swiftly eradicated following detection. No human case of the H5N1 virus has occurred in the EU.

There is considerable variation in the number of cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza in wild birds, ranging from 326 in Germany to 1 in the UK (see chart 1). The peak in terms of the number of cases in wild birds was reached in March with 362 cases (compared to 200 in February), with cases declining to 162 in April and 17 in May (until 21 May – see chart 2). The most commonly affected wild birds have been swans (see chart 3), representing 62,8% of the total, followed by ducks (16,3%), geese (4,5%), birds of prey (3,9%) and others (13%).

Following the major geographical spread of the H5N1 avian influenza virus from South-East Asia in 2005, the EU has intensified its programmes for the surveillance and early detection of avian influenza, both in wild birds and poultry. Almost €2.9 million has been made available by the Commission to co-finance Member States’ surveillance programmes for the period July 2005-December 2006 (see IP/06/172 ). Guidelines on enhanced surveillance for avian influenza in wild birds were also issued by the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health. The intensified surveillance has enabled the Commission and Member States to gain a clearer view of the avian influenza situation in the EU, and to rapidly detect and respond to any outbreaks.

For the Commission and CRL presentations and the surveillance results, see here

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