Avian flu cases spark fresh concern for Europe’s chicken flocks

The European Union warned on Tuesday that cases of new bird flu infections had emerged in Britain and Romania, bringing to at least 15 the number of countries where the highly contagious disease had…

Avian flu cases spark fresh concern for Europe’s chicken flocks

The European Union warned on Tuesday that cases of new bird flu infections had emerged in Britain and Romania, bringing to at least 15 the number of countries where the highly contagious disease had been detected. European Commission officials have said it appeared the new bird flu outbreaks were the result of migrating birds accidentally entering areas where the virus is more common.

“The alert status continues to be amber and EU Member States continue to implement measures to protect their poultry flocks and prevent the spread of disease,” European Commission spokeswoman Nathalie Vandystadt said in a statement.

The British government confirmed on Tuesday that two cases of avian influenza had been found at two sites. Romania reported one case of infection.

News of the virulent strain of bird flu comes at a challenging time for the EU’s poultry industry. European countries, including Britain, are still grappling with the effects of a bout of avian flu known as the avian influenza flue that struck the continent in early 2018.

The European Commission said on Tuesday that just over 50 percent of its member states were now at no risk of the virus spreading, an improvement from January, when more than 80 percent of the countries were declared at heightened risk.

As many as nine million poultry were culled across 15 European countries last year as a result of the outbreak, which was declared officially over in January. In total, 30 million birds were lost.

Concerns for the thousands of chicken flocks, egg producers and pig farms around the world associated with the outbreak of the virus prompted the World Health Organization on Tuesday to urge officials and people to take precautions against any possible spread of bird flu.

“Now is the time to exercise caution against jumping to conclusions about the likelihood of the disease spreading, and therefore to be vigilant for potential risks,” WHO’s Dr. Kurt Forman said in a statement.

WHO noted the vulnerable nature of poultry industries in developing countries such as poultry quarantine and vaccination systems, animal health monitoring and surveillance and disease monitoring tools.

The European Commission said it was ensuring strict controls on animal transport.

Trouble at home

This week the Romanian agriculture ministry stepped up checks to prevent the spread of the disease.

The new cases of the disease in Romania are separate from those announced last week by Romania’s agriculture ministry, who said a new case of the H5N8 strain of bird flu had been found at a farm near the city of Tarsus in the northeastern region of Transylvania.

Romania has reported more than 20 outbreaks of the H5N8 virus since April 2017, the ministry said.

The food and agriculture ministries in Romania and the Czech Republic have announced bans on the transport of poultry products as a precaution against the spread of the bird flu.

Chicken raised in areas at high risk of bird flu viruses are off limits. The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that while not currently included on its list of vaccine suppliers, poultry experts from the Czech Republic and Romania would help import vaccines from manufacturers of vaccine for the European Avian Influenza virus.

At least 15 European countries and the European Union’s executive have reported bird flu in recent weeks, raising concerns for the health of millions of birds.

Such outbreaks come as a growing number of countries ban imports of poultry products from countries such as Germany and Turkey, which reported outbreaks.

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