European Bird Flu Situation

Vaccination of poultry against bird flu was moved to the agenda after the latest data confirmed the worst year on record in the UK and Europe.

Between 11 June and 9 September 2022, there have been 56 outbreaks in UK poultry, 22 in captivity and 710 in wild birds. This is against the background of 788 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses reported in 16 countries of the EU and the European Economic Area during this period, according to data from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

“Unusual persistence in wild birds continued throughout the summer and occurred in 15 European countries,” said the new report.

In the past few years, no or few cases were detected during the summer months. Epidemic
Efsa said the entire 2021-22 HPAI season caused the largest epidemic ever observed in Europe, with 2,467 outbreaks and 47.5 million bird deaths in poultry.

Heavily infected wild birds pose an ongoing risk of infection to poultry, with 3,573 his HPAI events recorded in wild birds over the past 12 months.

The current epidemic is clearly ongoing, with poultry and wild bird cases recorded well into September, warned EFSA’s head of risk assessment, Guilhem de Seze.

“As autumn migration begins and more wild birds winter in Europe, the observed persistence of the virus in Europe could mean a higher risk of HPAI infection than before,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Animal and Plant Health Authority (Apha) said in its latest briefing that his H5N1 strain of bird flu was confirmed at a location near Kid’s Grove in Newcastle, Staffordshire on October 3. This comes after the virus was confirmed on October 1 in a second building near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, and two others near Attleborough, Norfolk.

Vaccination Rollout

Some countries, including China, have vaccinated against the virus for years, but the vaccine is banned in the UK and Europe, but next-generation vaccines offer this possibility.

However, it is understood that the EU is considering revoking the ban following case escalation.

Ian Brown, Apha’s head of virology, said there has been a shift in thinking now that many vaccine candidates are being actively tested.

These were necessary because the vaccines approved in Europe are not well matched to his current strain of H5N1 virus.

“Our study shows that the vaccine is highly inadequate, and that the immunity it provides is unlikely to protect birds from infection by this new H5N1 strain.” “But given the severity of bird flu this year, the UK should be ready to deploy a vaccine,” he suggested. Birds can be vaccinated by injection into the eggs or by spraying the chicks.

As with vaccination against bovine tuberculosis, one of the problems is that it is not possible to distinguish between vaccinated and infected birds, so the spread of the disease cannot be monitored.

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