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Animal Disease Situation

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Avian Influenza (AI) / Fowl Plague

Information on the current animal disease situation can be found in the respective latest issue of the monthly newsletter Radar Bulletin (in German language).

Avian Influenza (derived from the Latin word avis, bird), colloquially also called bird flu, is an infectious disease caused by viruses whose natural reservoir hosts are wild waterbirds. These viruses occur in two variants (low/highly pathogenic) and different subtypes (H1-16 in combination with N1-9). Low pathogenic avian influenza viruses (LPAIV) of the subtypes H5 and H7 cause almost none or only mild symptoms of disease in domestic poultry, particularly ducks and geese. However, these viruses have the capacity to evolve spontaneously into a highly pathogenic form (highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses, HPAIV), which then clinically manifests as fowl plague. 

Fowl plague is highly contagious for domestic poultry and causes severe general symptoms of disease. Upon exposure to a high infectious dose, HPAIV, but also some LPAIV, can be transmitted to humans and have the potential to cause fatal human disease.

Risk Assessment, 17.05.2017

Between 8th November 2016 and 15th May 2017, more than 1,150 cases of HPAI H5N8 in wild birds and 107 out-breaks in birds kept in captivity (92 poultry holdings and 15 zoos/animal parks) were reported in Germany. In April (06.04.2017) as well as in May (09.05.2017), one outbreak was detected each in birds kept in captivity. Thus, the HPAI epidemic seems to be waning in Germany. However, outbreaks or infections in wild birds are sporadically reported. 

The current avian flu epidemic is the most severe and longest-lasting epidemic that has occurred in Europe so far. In total, 29 European states have been or still are concerned.

In addition to H5N8, two other HPAI subtypes have been detected in Europe, i.e. HPAI H5N5 (in seven states) and H5N6 (in Greece). Outside Europe, avian influenza outbreaks of the subtype HPAI H5N8 have been report-ed from Russia, Israel, Egypt, Tunisia, Nigeria, Uganda, Cameroon, Iran, Nepal, and India. HPAI H5N1 is en-demic in Asia and some African countries. Moreover, further HPAIV H5N1 related H5-strains are circulating in Asia. 

Although the current epidemic seems to be waning, isolated outbreaks may still occur. The recent reports of HPAIV cases in birds kept in captivity, which occurred in May, indicate that at least in some countries infectious virus is still circulating in the environment.

Therefore, biosecurity measures should be maintained. This includes, inter alia, wearing of stable specific pro-tective clothing and footwear, cleaning and disinfection of equipment that has been in contact with birds and the best possible prevention of contacts between poultry and wild birds.    

So far and worldwide, none of the HPAIV subtypes circulating in Europe (H5N8, H5N, and H6N6) have caused infections in humans.

This present risk assessment describes entry scenarios of HPAIV H5 of Asian origin into Germany and thereby the risk of HPAIV H5 outbreaks in poultry holdings in Germany.

In summary, the risk for the introduction and spread of HPAIV H5 into domestic poultry holdings in Germany is assessed as follows:

 

Entry risk assessment of HPAIV H5

Risk category

Introduction into Germany by

 

Illegal trade from third countries and European states

moderate

Legal trade from third countries and European states

moderate

persons and vehicle traffic

moderate

Wild birds

low-moderate*

 

* depending on the site

_______________________

For Download

Full-length risk assessment dated May 17, 2017 (in German language only)

Risk Estimation, 02.05.2017

Assessment of the situation

The detection of HPAIV H5N8 in 29 European countries (listed chronologically by date of report: Hungary, Poland, Croatia, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, France, Romania, Serbia, Great Britain, Greece, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Slovak Republic, Italy, Ireland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Portugal, Macedonia, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lithuania) and the rapid distribution of the virus indicate a highly dynamic spatial spread of the infection. Since March the number of reports in wild birds has decreased considerably. In Germany, the last outbreak in birds kept in captivity was detected on 06.04.2017. Outside Germany the last outbreak in domestic poultry was reported from Sweden on 25.04.2017. In total, the number of reports in Europe is decreasing strongly. The HPAI epidemic gradually seems to slow down.

POULTRY AND ZOOS/ANIMAL PARKS

In Germany, HPAI outbreaks have been reported from 91 poultry holdings and 15 zoos/animal parks. Almost all of these holdings are located in areas where increased numbers of dead HPAIV-positive water birds have been found. In the affected animal parks, mostly water birds with possible contact to wild waterfowl have been affected. In most poultry holdings, direct or indirect introduction via contaminated material (shoes, vehicles, objects) is the most likely source of infection. The risk of introduction by purchased poultry, feed and drinking water has been negligible in all outbreaks investigated epidemiologically by the FLI. Until March 2017 almost all outbreaks in affected holdings were primary outbreaks which did not spread any further; however, one outbreak in Brandenburg and outbreaks at three sites belonging to one holding in Schleswig-Holstein are highly likely to be secondary outbreaks. Since 02.03.2017, a series of 23 outbreaks in fattening turkeys has occurred in the district Cloppenburg, one of the regions with the highest poultry density in Germany. It is assumed that in these cases a spread of the virus between holdings plays an important role. Further single outbreaks were reported in the districts Oldenburg (turkey hens) and Ammerland (ducks). An alarming event is the outbreak in parent ducks in the district Ammerland, as the adult animals only showed a reduced laying performance but no increased mortality. An endemic establishment of the virus in water birds kept in captivity may lead to similar series of outbreaks as observed in France, Hungary, Romania, and the Czech Republic where the virus seems to have found a niche in waterfowl populations.

WILD BIRDS

While in the 2014/2015 outbreak HPAIV H5N8 was only sporadically detected in healthy appearing wild birds (three mallard ducks, one common teal and one sea gull), this epidemic was characterized by detection of a large number of dead water birds and in carrion-eating birds of prey, e.g. buzzards, white-tailed eagles and sea gulls. So far, the virus has been detected in at least 53 different bird species including species belonging to the categories diving ducks, grebes, sea gulls, swans, in isolated cases dabbling ducks (mallard duck), geese, birds of prey, owls and also carrion-eating songbirds (e.g. crows). The fact that HPAIV H5 has also been detected in healthy water birds or in their feces leads to the assumption that wild birds can excrete the virus without developing disease or dying. Infected but asymptomatic wild birds as well as birds during the incubation period therefore must be regarded as mobile virus carriers. Furthermore, predators (wild mammals such as foxes and martens as well as outdoor dogs and cats, but also birds of prey and crows) may break up carcasses of dead waterfowl and carry away parts of the carcasses or inner organs with high virus loads, thus causing a considerable contamination of the environment. Persons and vehicles accessing contaminated areas may spread the virus and introduce it into poultry holdings.

Since mid-March, the number of HPAI H5 cases reported in wild birds which still continued to increase considerably at the end of February has been decreasing strongly (Fig. 1). The so far last case of HPAI H5N8 in wild birds was reported in birds of prey in Brandenburg and Schleswig-Holstein on 19.04.2017.

Spring migration (return migration) of most bird species to their breeding grounds proceeds more rapidly than fall migration and is almost completed. During the nesting season from March to June the birds do not commute. The activities of the breeding birds are restricted to their own limited territory. In general, water birds are rather reclusive during nesting season. In populations of cranes, white storks, but also many Anatidae species (ducks, geese, swans) there is a certain but hard to quantify percentage of non-breeding birds. These may migrate on a small scale depending on the food supply.  

Isolated cases of HPAI infected wild birds, mostly birds of prey, are still reported, so that it must be assumed that the virus is continually present in waterfowl and in the environment (bird carcasses) in areas where local epidemics have occurred.

PHYLOGENETIC ANALYSES

Genetic analyses of the currently circulating pathogens show a similarity to H5N8 viruses which were first detected in Southern Russia last summer. These viruses show clear genetic differences to H5N8 viruses which occurred in Europe in 2014/2015. Therefore, the virus has been newly introduced, most likely by the same route as in 2014, i.e. via Russia by wild birds. Phylogenetic analyses lead to the assumption that on the way from Central Asia to Central Europe reassortment events with at least one other avian influenza virus have taken place. Direct introduction from China or the neighboring Asian countries by poultry and poultry products is very unlikely, as in this case other genetic patterns of the virus would have to be expected. The results of epidemiological outbreak investigations did not provide any indications for direct connections between the holdings affected in Germany and the HPAI endemic regions in East or Southeast Asia. (It must be noted in particular that import bans on poultry and poultry products are in force for all countries affected from HPAI). The observed increased virulence in waterfowl correlates with the modified composition of the genome segments of the currently circulating H5N8 compared to the virus which circulated in 2014/2015.

Since mid-December 2016 a further subtype, H5N5, has been circulating in wild birds, which now has first been detected in a poultry holding. This virus is a reassortant based on the original H5N8. Mixed viruses of influenza viruses, so-called reassortants, are generated, if several virus subtypes are present in one infected animal and exchange genetic material during replication. First analyses of the H5N5 virus also showed a relationship with HPAIV H5N8 precursor viruses from the Russian-Mongolian border region. It seems to have evolved in parallel with or shortly after HPAIV H5N8 and was then also introduced to Germany, but shows genetic differences. Generation of reassortants always must be expected when different high and low pathogenic influenza viruses are circulating in one population. Thus, a further diversification of the viruses is to be expected given the multitude of currently circulating high and low pathogenic influenza virus strains.

So far, no cases of HPAIV H5N8 or HPAIV H5N5 infection in mammals, including humans, have been reported. 

Conclusions and recommendations

It remains to be seen whether the epidemic will cease throughout Europe over the next weeks. At present, single cases still are reported sporadically from different European countries. Massive outbreak series in domestic poultry holdings caused by different high and low pathogenic H5 subtypes in France and some Balkan states (Table 2) are considered to be problematic, as the virus can be reintroduced into the wild bird population as long as the epidemic lasts, if infected domestic water birds come into contact with wild waterfowl. As temperatures and UV radiation increase, the risk of introduction of HPAIV into domestic poultry holdings and birds kept in zoological gardens in Germany by direct contacts between wild birds and domestic poultry now is considered to be low to moderate depending on the region: In areas where HPAI H5-infected wild birds are detected or in their vicinity the risk is considered to be moderate. In other areas where HPAI H5N8 has not been detected in wild birds for a longer period of time and where no waterbirds gather the risk is considered to be low.

Virus introduction into poultry holdings by HPAIV contaminated objects (vehicles, clothes, shoes) in areas where increased numbers of infected wild birds have been detected is considered to be moderate.

For waterfowl kept in captivity the risk of an unrecognized circulation of HPAI H5 viruses and of a spread between poultry holdings is considered to be moderate.

Protection of domestic poultry holdings from infection with HPAIV is the highest priority. It is essential to prevent a spread of infections between poultry holdings. This requires the implementation of strict biosafety measures, particularly consistent cleaning and disinfection of equipment and vehicles. Revision, optimization and strict implementation of biosafety measures are of utmost importance. Poultry farmers are obliged by law to observe basic biosafety rules. The creation of a physical and functional barrier between wild bird habitats where cases of HPAI have occurred and domestic poultry holdings remains important. Risk-based indoor housing of poultry and other biosafety measures minimize the risk of direct and indirect contact with infected wild birds. In particular, indirect introduction routes, e.g. contaminated food, water or contaminated litter and objects (shoes, wheelbarrows, vehicles etc.) must be taken into account. These routes must be cut off and adequate disinfection measures must be taken. 

In detail, the following recommendations are made:

  • Continued virological and/or serological surveillance of water bird holdings to ensure early detection of a possibly unrecognized circulation of HPAI.
  • Observance of strict biosafety measures in all poultry holdings, also small-scale holdings, zoological gardens, animal parks and shelters, if necessary by means of check lists
  • Joint use of equipment, carcass containers and vehicles by poultry holdings should be avoided
  • Access of vehicles and persons to poultry holdings should be limited as far as possible. After entering a poultry holding persons who regularly take care of the animals in one holding should refrain from visiting other poultry holdings for the following 72 hours. Veterinarians and other professionals who visit poultry holdings should interrupt their tour and observe the recommended quarantine period after accessing a holding where clinical signs or losses indicate an outbreak of HPAI.
  • Risk-based restriction of free-range husbandry (mandatory indoor housing) of poultry (at least in regions with a high wild bird density, a high poultry density, in the vicinity of wild bird resting and gathering areas, or locations where HPAIV H5 has been detected)
  • Poultry holdings which have been exempt from mandatory indoor housing should be investigated clinically and virologically at three-week-intervals maximum
  • Prevention of access of free-range poultry to natural bodies of water
  • Notification of the responsible veterinary authority in case of dead or ill wild birds and mammals 
  • Increased investigation particularly of dead wild birds or wild birds living on or around water for avian influenza viruses 
  • No contact of hunters who have been in contact with game birds with domestic poultry; in areas where fowl plague has been detected in wild birds ban on game bird hunting
  • Avoidance of direct contact between humans and pet animals and dead or ill wild birds
  • Assessment of practicability of the measures foreseen in the animal disease emergency plans and, if necessary, revision of plans.

_______________________

For Download

Full-length risk estimation dated May 2, 2017 (in German language only)

Risk Estimation, 31.03.2017

Assessment of the situation

The detection of HPAIV H5N8 in 29 European countries (listed chronologically by date of report: Hungary, Poland, Croatia, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, France, Romania, Serbia, Great Britain, Greece, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Slovak Republic, Italy, Ireland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Portugal, Macedonia, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lithuania) and the rapid distribution of the virus indicate a highly dynamic spatial spread of the infection. For the first time since onset of the current fowl plague epidemic the number of reports in wild birds has decreased considerably; in contrast, new outbreaks are reported almost daily from the German region with the highest poultry density in Lower Saxony. This is the most severe and most long-lasting fowl plague epidemic in Europe and Germany since outbreaks have been recorded.

POULTRY AND ZOOS/ANIMAL PARKS

In Germany, HPAI outbreaks have been reported from 90 poultry holdings and 15 zoos/animal parks. Almost all of these holdings are located in areas where increased numbers of dead HPAIV-positive water birds have been found. In the affected animal parks, mostly water birds with possible contact to wild waterfowl have been affected. In most poultry holdings, direct or indirect introduction via contaminated material (shoes, vehicles, objects) is the most likely route of infection. The risk of introduction by purchased poultry, feed and drinking water has been negligible in all outbreaks investigated epidemiologically by the FLI. Until March 2017 almost all outbreaks in affected holdings were primary outbreaks which did not spread any further; however, one outbreak in Brandenburg and outbreaks at three sites belonging to one holding in Schleswig-Holstein are highly likely to be secondary outbreaks. Since 02.03.2017, a series of 23 outbreaks in fattening turkeys has occurred in the district Cloppenburg, one of the regions with the highest poultry density in Germany. It is assumed that in these cases a spread of the virus between holdings plays an important role. Further single outbreaks were reported in the districts Oldenburg (turkey hens) and Ammerland (ducks). An alarming event is the outbreak in parent ducks in the district Ammerland, as the adult animals only showed a reduced laying performance but no increased mortality. An endemic establishment of the virus in water birds kept in captivity may lead to similar series of outbreaks as observed in France, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic where the virus seems to have found a niche in waterfowl populations.

WILD BIRDS

While in the 2014/2015 outbreak HPAIV H5N8 was only sporadically detected in healthy appearing wild birds (three mallard ducks, one common teal and one sea gull), this epidemic is characterized by detection of a large number of dead water birds and carrion-eating birds of prey, e.g. buzzards, white-tailed eagles and sea gulls. So far, the virus has been detected in at least 53 different bird species including species belonging to the categories diving ducks, grebes, sea gulls, swans, in isolated cases dabbling ducks (mallard duck), geese, birds of prey, owls and also carrion-eating songbirds (e.g. crows). The fact that HPAIV H5 has also been detected in healthy water birds or in their feces leads to the assumption that wild birds can excrete the virus without developing disease or dying. Infected but asymptomatic wild birds as well as birds during the incubation period continue to be mobile virus carriers. Furthermore, predators (mammals such as foxes and martens, but also birds of prey and crows) may break up carcasses of dead waterfowl and carry away parts of the carcasses or inner organs with high virus loads, thus causing a considerable contamination of the environment. Persons and vehicles accessing contaminated areas may spread the virus and introduce it into poultry holdings.

Since mid-March, the number of HPAI H5 cases reported in wild birds which still continued to increase considerably at the end of February has been decreasing strongly (Fig. 1). 

After the beginning of spring migration of nordic waterfowl in February and more prominently since March, strong migratory movements within Europe from the West and Southwest to the East and Northeast are observed (geese, swans, ducks, grebes). In most bird species, return migration to the breeding grounds does not take as long as fall migration. Due to the mild winter 2016/2017 spring migration of many water and shore birds, in particular geese, ducks, swans, gulls and pewits, already has fully started. Some species of these groups overwinter in Southwestern France, i.e. in the regions where currently the highest number of outbreaks in domestic poultry is reported. This applies to dabbling ducks such as mallards, common teals, diving ducks (common pochards, tufted ducks) and greylag geese which now return from these overwintering areas to their nesting grounds in Central and Northern Europe (including Germany). During the nesting season from March to June the birds do not commute. The activities of the breeding birds are restricted to their own limited territory. In general, water birds are rather reclusive during nesting season. In populations of cranes, white storks, but also many Anatidae species (ducks, geese, swans) there is a certain but hard to quantify percentage of non-breeding birds. These may migrate on a small scale depending on the food supply.  

HPAI infected wild birds are still reported (Fig. 1), in particular birds of prey and waterfowl species which breed in Germany (e.g. greylag geese, mute swans), so that it must be assumed that the virus is still present in waterfowl and in the environment (bird carcasses) in areas where local epidemics have occurred.

PHYLOGENETIC ANALYSES

Genetic analyses show a similarity to H5N8 viruses which were first detected in Southern Russia in the summer of 2016. These viruses show clear genetic differences to H5N8 viruses which occurred in Europe in 2014/2015. Therefore, the virus has been newly introduced, most likely by the same route as in 2014, i.e. via Russia by wild birds. Phylogenetic analyses lead to the assumption that on the way from Central Asia to Central Europe reassortment events with at least one other avian influenza virus have taken place. Direct introduction from China or the neighboring Asian countries by poultry and poultry products is very unlikely, as in this case other genetic patterns of the virus would have to be expected. The results of epidemiological outbreak investigations did not provide any indications for direct connections between the holdings affected in Germany and the endemic regions in East or Southeast Asia. (It must be mentioned that import bans on poultry and poultry products are in force for all countries affected from HPAI). The observed increased virulence in waterfowl correlates with the modified composition of the genome segments of the currently circulating H5N8 compared to the virus which circulated in 2014/2015.

Since mid-December 2016 a further subtype, H5N5, has been circulating in wild birds, which now has first been introduced into a poultry holding. This virus is a reassortant based on the original H5N8. Mixed viruses, so-called reassortants, of avian influenza viruses are generated, if several virus subtypes are present in one infected animal and exchange genetic material during replication. First analyses of the H5N5 virus also showed a relationship with HPAIV H5N8 precursor viruses from the Russian-Mongolian border region. It seems to have evolved in parallel with or shortly after HPAIV H5N8, but shows genetic differences and was then also introduced to Germany. Generation of reassortants always must be expected when different high and low pathogenic influenza viruses are circulating in one population. Thus, a further diversification of the viruses is to be expected given the multitude of currently circulating high and low pathogenic influenza strains.

So far, no cases of HPAIV H5N8 or HPAIV H5N5 infection in mammals, including humans, have been reported. 

Conclusions and recommendations

It remains to be seen whether the number of HPAI cases in wild birds will continue to decrease over the next weeks. At present, single cases still are reported sporadically from different federal states (mainly inland states). Massive outbreak series in domestic poultry holdings caused by different high and low pathogenic H5 subtypes in France and some Balkan states (Table 2) are considered to be problematic, as the virus can be reintroduced into the wild bird population as long as the epidemic lasts, if infected domestic water birds come into contact with wild waterfowl. Therefore, the risk of introduction by wild birds into domestic poultry holdings and birds kept in zoological gardens in Germany by direct and indirect contacts between wild birds and domestic poultry in areas where HPAI H5 infected wild birds are found is considered to be high. In other areas where HPAI H5N8 has not been detected in wild birds for a longer period of time and where no waterbirds gather the risk is considered to be low.

In Lower Saxony, particularly in the district Cloppenburg, the risk of introduction due to a spread of the virus between poultry holdings is considered to be high.

For waterfowl kept in captivity the risk of an unrecognized circulation of HPAI H5 viruses and of a spread between poultry holdings is considered to be high.

Protection of domestic poultry holdings from infection with HPAIV H5N8 is the highest priority. It is essential to prevent a spread of infections between poultry holdings. This requires the implementation of strict biosafety measures, particularly consistent cleaning and disinfection of equipment and vehicles. Revision, optimization and strict implementation of biosafety measures are of utmost importance. Poultry farmers are obliged by law to observe basic biosafety rules. The creation of a physical and functional barrier between wild bird habitats where cases of HPAI have occurred and domestic poultry holdings remains important. Risk-based indoor housing of poultry and other biosafety measures minimize the risk of direct and indirect contact with infected wild birds. In particular, indirect introduction routes, e.g. contaminated food, water or contaminated litter and objects (shoes, wheelbarrows, vehicles etc.) must be taken into account. These routes must be cut off and adequate disinfection measures must be taken. 

In detail, the following recommendations are made:

  • Increased virological and/or serological surveillance of water bird holdings to ensure early detection of a possibly unrecognized circulation of HPAI.
  • Observance of strict biosafety measures in all poultry holdings, also small-scale holdings, zoological gardens, animal parks and shelters, if necessary by means of check lists
  • Joint use of equipment, carcass containers and vehicles by poultry holdings should be avoided
  • Access of vehicles and persons to poultry holdings should be limited as far as possible. After entering a poultry holding persons who regularly take care of the animals in one holding should refrain from visiting other poultry holdings for the following 72 hours. Veterinarians and other professionals who visit poultry holdings should interrupt their tour and observe the recommended quarantine period after accessing a holding where clinical signs or losses indicate an outbreak of HPAI.
  • Risk-based restriction of free-range husbandry (mandatory indoor housing) of poultry (at least in regions with a high wild bird density, a high poultry density, in the vicinity of wild bird resting and gathering areas, or locations where HPAIV H5 has been detected)
  • Poultry holdings which have been exempt from mandatory indoor housing should be investigated clinically and virologically at three-week-intervals maximum
  • Prevention of access of free-range poultry to natural bodies of water
  • Notification of the responsible veterinary authority in case of dead or ill wild birds and mammals in areas where increased numbers of dead wild birds have been found
  • Increased investigation of dead wild birds or wild birds living on or around water for avian influenza viruses 
  • No contact of hunters who have been in contact with game birds with domestic poultry; in areas where fowl plague has been detected in wild birds ban on game bird hunting
  • Avoidance of direct contact between humans and pet animals and dead or ill wild birds
  • Assessment of practicability of the measures foreseen in the animal disease emergency plans and, if necessary, revision of plans.

_______________________

For Download

Full-length risk estimation dated March 31, 2017 (in German language only)

Risk Estimation, 13.02.2017

Assessment of the situation

The detection of HPAIV H5N8 in 26 European countries (listed chronologically by date of report: Hungary, Poland, Croatia, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, France, Romania, Serbia, Great Britain, Greece, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Slovak Republic, Italy, Ireland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Portugal, Macedonia, and Belgium) and the rapid distribution of the virus indicate a further highly dynamic spatial spread of the infection. The number of cases reported from various parts of Europe increases daily; often also birds kept in zoological gardens and animal parks are affected. In Germany, the case numbers in wild birds and the number of outbreaks in bird holdings (69) have reached an unprecedented level.

WILD BIRDS
While in the 2014/2015 outbreak HPAIV H5N8 was only sporadically detected in healthy appearing wild birds (three mallard ducks, one common teal and one sea gull), currently a large number of dead water birds and carrion-eating birds of prey, e.g. buzzards, white-tailed eagles and sea gulls, is found. So far, the virus has been detected in 47 different bird species including species belonging to the categories diving ducks, grebes, sea gulls, swans, in isolated cases dabbling ducks (mallard duck), geese, birds of prey and also carrion-eating songbirds (e.g. crows). The fact that HPAIV H5 has also been detected in healthy water birds or in their feces leads to the assumption that wild birds can excrete the virus without developing disease or dying. It must be concluded that there is an ongoing HPAI H5N8 epidemics among wild water bird species and that the dead birds found possibly represent no more than the tip of the iceberg.

Infected but asymptomatic wild birds as well as birds during the incubation period continue to be mobile virus carriers. Many water bird species (e.g. geese, swans, some duck species) move between cropland (particularly grassland, maize stubble and winter rapeseed and grains) where they feed during the day and waterbodies where they rest during the evening and night. They can excrete the virus with the feces and contaminate the respective surfaces and waterbodies. Furthermore, predators (mammals such as foxes and martens, but also birds of prey and crows) may break up carcasses of dead waterfowl and carry away parts of the carcasses or inner organs with high virus loads, thus causing a considerable contamination of the environment. Persons and vehicles accessing contaminated areas may spread the virus and introduce it into poultry holdings.

If the frosty weather continues, further dynamic migratory movements of birds must be expected. Most water bird species flee from the cold, i.e. they move to ice-free waterbodies. Such weather conditions can lead to a spread of the infection among wild birds in inland areas and in Southern Europe.

POULTRY AND ZOOS/ANIMAL PARKS

In Germany, HPAIV H5N8 so far has been introduced into 54 poultry holdings and 15 zoos/animal parks. Almost all of these holdings are located in areas where increased numbers of dead HPAIV-positive water birds have been found. In the affected animal parks, mostly water birds with possible contact to wild waterfowl were affected. In most poultry holdings, direct or indirect introduction via contaminated material (shoes, vehicles, objects) is the most likely route of infection. The risk of introduction by purchased poultry, feed and drinking water has been negligible in all outbreaks investigated epidemiologically by the FLI. Most outbreaks in affected holdings were primary outbreaks which did not spread any further; three cases however are highly likely to be secondary outbreaks. In all locations where contacts between wild birds and domestic poultry are possible infections can be introduced and distributed and new sources of infection can develop.

PHYLOGENETIC ANALYSES
Genetic analyses show a similarity to H5N8 viruses which were first detected in Southern Russia in the summer of 2016. These viruses show clear genetic differences to H5N8 viruses which occurred in Europe in 2014/2015. Therefore, the virus has been newly introduced, most likely by the same route as in 2014, i.e. via Russia by wild birds. Phylogenetic analyses lead to the assumption that on the way from Central Asia to Central Europe reassortment events with at least one other avian influenza virus have taken place. Direct introduction from China or the neighboring Asian countries by poultry and poultry products is very unlikely, as in this case other genetic patterns of the virus would have to be expected. The results of epidemiological outbreak investigations did not provide any indications for direct connections between the holdings affected in Germany and the endemic regions in East or Southeast Asia. (It must be mentioned that import bans on poultry and poultry products are in force for all countries affected from HPAI). The observed increased virulence in waterfowl correlates with the modified composition of the genome segments of the currently circulating H5N8 compared to the virus which circulated in 2014/2015.

Since mid-December 2016 a further subtype, H5N5, has been circulating in wild birds, which now has first been introduced into a poultry holding. This virus is a reassortant based on the original H5N8. Mixed viruses, so-called reassortants, of avian influenza viruses are generated, if several virus subtypes are present in one infected animal and exchange genetic material during replication. First analyses of the H5N5 virus also showed a relationship with HPAIV H5N8 precursor viruses from the Russian-Mongolian border region. It seems to have evolved in parallel with or shortly after HPAIV H5N8, but shows genetic differences and was then also introduced to Germany. Generation of reassortants always must be expected when different high and low pathogenic influenza viruses are circulating in one population. 

So far, no human cases of HPAIV H5N8 or HPAIV H5N5 infection have been reported.

Conclusions and recommendations

Due to the current spread of HPAIV H5N8 in wild birds in 26 European countries and in currently 15 affected German States the risk of introduction into domestic poultry holdings and captive bird holdings in zoological gardens through direct and indirect contacts between wild birds and domestic poultry is estimated to be high, particularly for holdings in the vicinity of resting and gathering areas of waterfowl, including agricultural cropland where wild birds gather.

Protection of domestic poultry holdings from infection with HPAIV H5N8 is the highest priority. Emphasis is put on the creation of a physical and functional barrier between wild bird habitats and domestic poultry holdings. Mandatory indoor housing of poultry and other biosafety measures minimize the risk of direct and indirect contact with infected wild birds. In particular, indirect introduction routes, e.g. by feed contaminated by wild birds, water or contaminated litter and objects (shoes, wheelbarrows, vehicles etc.) must be cut off and adequate disinfection measures must be taken. A spread of infections between poultry holdings must be prevented. This requires the implementation of strict biosafety measures, particularly consistent cleaning and disinfection of equipment and vehicles. Revision, optimization and strict implementation of biosafety measures are of utmost importance. Poultry farmers are obliged by law to observe basic biosafety rules.

In detail, the following recommendations are made:

  • Observance of strict biosafety measures in all poultry holdings, also small-scale holdings, zoological gardens, animal parks and shelters, including change of shoes and clothing, disinfection measures
  • After entering a poultry holding persons should refrain from visiting other poultry holdings for the following 72 hours
  • Joint use of equipment and vehicles by poultry holdings should be avoided
  • Access of vehicles and persons to poultry holdings should be limited as far as possible
  • Risk-based restriction of free-range husbandry (mandatory indoor housing) of poultry (at least in regions with a high wild bird density, a high poultry density, in the vicinity of wild bird resting and gathering areas, or locations where HPAIV H5N8 has been detected)
  • Indoor housing of zoo birds as far as possible, limited access to aviaries/bird shows
  • Prevention of access of free-range poultry to natural bodies of water
  • Increased investigations of poultry holdings; in galliform birds increased clinical examinations, in geese and ducks PCR testing of combined pharyngeal and cloacal swabs pursuant to the legal regulations
  • Poultry holdings which have been exempt from mandatory indoor housing should be investigated clinically and virologically at three-week-intervals maximum
  • Ban on live bird exhibitions of any kind until further notice
  • Notification of the responsible veterinary authority in case of dead or ill wild birds and mammals in areas where increased numbers of dead wild birds have been found
  • Increased investigation of dead wild birds or wild birds living on or around water for avian influenza viruses (passive and active wild bird monitoring, particularly by field-collected fecal samples)
  • No contact of hunters who have been in contact with game birds with domestic poultry; in areas where fowl plague has been detected in wild birds ban on game bird hunting
  • Avoidance of direct contact between humans and pet animals and dead or ill wild birds
  • Assessment of practicability of the measures foreseen in the animal disease emergency plans and, if necessary, revision of plans.

_______________________

For Download

Full-length risk estimation dated February 13, 2017 (in German language only)

Risk Estimation, 24.01.2017

The detection of HPAIV H5N8 in 23 European countries (listed chronologically by date of report: Hungary, Poland, Croatia, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, France, Romania, Serbia, Great Britain, Greece, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Slovak Republic, Italy, Ireland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Spain) and the rapid distribution of the virus indicate a further highly dynamic spread of the infection. The number of cases reported from various parts of Europe increases daily; often also birds kept in zoological gardens and animal parks are affected. In Germany, the case numbers in wild birds and the number of outbreaks in poultry holdings and zoological gardens have reached an unprecedented level.

While in the 2014/2015 outbreak HPAIV H5N8 was only sporadically detected in healthy appearing wild birds (three mallard ducks, one common teal and one sea gull), currently a large number of dead water birds and carrion-eating birds of prey, e.g. buzzards, white-tailed eagles and sea gulls, is found. So far, the virus has been detected in 46 different bird species including species belonging to the categories diving ducks, grebes, sea gulls, swans, in isolated cases dabbling ducks (mallard duck), geese, birds of prey and also carrion-eating songbirds (e.g. crows). As at present mainly wild birds which have been found dead are investigated, it is unknown which other bird species may possibly carry the virus and do not develop symptoms of disease or die. It must be concluded that there is an ongoing HPAI H5N8 epidemics among wild water bird species and that the dead birds found possibly represent no more than the tip of the iceberg.

Infected but asymptomatic wild birds as well as birds during the incubation period continue to be mobile virus carriers. Many water bird species (e.g. geese, some duck species) move between cropland where they stay during the day and waterbodies where they rest during the evening and night. They can excrete the virus with the feces and contaminate the respective surfaces and waterbodies. Furthermore, predators (mammals such as foxes and martens, but also birds of prey and crows) may break up carcasses of dead waterfowl and carry away parts of the carcasses or inner organs, thus causing a considerable contamination of the environment. Persons and vehicles accessing contaminated areas may spread the virus and introduce it into poultry holdings.

If the frosty weather continues, further dynamic migratory movements of birds must be expected. Most water bird species flee from the cold, i.e. they move to ice-free waterbodies. Such weather conditions can lead to a spread of the infection among wild birds in inland areas and in Southern Europe.

In Germany, HPAIV H5N8 so far has been introduced into 36 poultry holdings and six zoos/animal parks. Almost all of these holdings are located in areas where increased numbers of dead water birds, in many cases infected with HPAI H5N8, have been found. In most cases, direct or indirect introduction via contaminated material (shoes, vehicles, objects) is the most likely route of infection. Most outbreaks in affected holdings were primary outbreaks which did not spread any further, one case however is highly likely to be a secondary outbreak.

First genetic analyses show a similarity to H5N8 viruses which were first detected in Southern Russia in the summer of 2016. These viruses show clear genetic differences to H5N8 viruses which occurred in Europe in 2014/2015. Therefore, the virus has been newly introduced, most likely by the same route as in 2014, i.e. via Russia by wild birds. Phylogenetic analyses lead to the assumption that on the way from Central Asia to Central Europe reassortment events with at least one other avian influenza virus have taken place, which suggests that introduction via direct transport of poultry or poultry products from Asia is unlikely. (It must be mentioned that import bans on poultry and poultry products are in force for all countries affected from HPAI). The observed increased virulence in waterfowl correlates with the modified composition of the genome segments of the currently circulating H5N8 compared to the virus which circulated in 2014/2015.

Since mid-December 2016 a further subtype, H5N5, has been circulating in wild birds, which now has first been introduced into a poultry holding. This virus is is likely to be a reassortant based on the original H5N8. Mixed viruses, so-called reassortants, of avian influenza viruses are generated, if several virus subtypes are present in one infected animal and exchange genetic material during replication. Generation of reassortants must be expected when different high and low pathogenic influenza viruses are circulating in one population. 

So far, no human cases of HPAIV H5N8 or HPAIV H5N5 infection have been reported.

Conclusions and recommendations

Due to the current spread of HPAIV H5N8 in wild birds in 23 European countries and in currently 15 affected German States the risk of introduction into domestic poultry holdings and captive bird holdings in zoological gardens through direct and indirect contacts between wild birds and domestic poultry is estimated to be high, particularly for holdings in the vicinity of resting and gathering areas of waterfowl, including agricultural crop land where wild birds gather.

Protection of domestic poultry holdings from infection with HPAIV H5N8 is the highest priority. Emphasis is put on the creation of a physical and functional barrier between wild bird habitats and domestic poultry holdings. Mandatory indoor housing of poultry and other biosafety measures minimize the risk of direct and indirect contact with infected wild birds. In particular, indirect introduction routes, e.g. by feed contaminated by wild birds, water or contaminated litter and objects (shoes, wheelbarrows, vehicles etc.) must be cut off and adequate disinfection measures must be taken. Revision, optimization and strict implementation of biosafety measures are of utmost importance. Poultry farmers are obliged by law to observe basic biosafety rules.

In detail, the following recommendations are made:

  • Observance of strict biosafety measures in all poultry holdings, also small-scale holdings, zoological gardens, animal parks and shelters, including change of shoes and clothing, disinfection measures
  • Risk-based restriction of free-range husbandry (mandatory indoor housing) of poultry (at least in regions with a high wild bird density, a high poultry density, in the vicinity of wild bird resting and gathering areas, or locations where HPAIV H5N8 has been detected)
  • Indoor housing of zoo birds as far as possible, limited access to aviaries/bird shows
  • Prevention of access of free-range poultry to natural bodies of water
  • Increased investigations of poultry holdings; in galliform birds increased clinical examinations, in geese and ducks PCR testing of combined pharyngeal and cloacal swabs pursuant to the legal regulations
  • Poultry holdings which have been exempt from mandatory indoor housing should be investigated clinically and virologically at three-week-intervals maximum
  • Ban on live bird exhibitions of any kind until further notice
  • Notification of the responsible veterinary authority in case of dead or ill wild birds and mammals in areas where increased numbers of dead wild birds have been found
  • Increased investigation of dead wild birds or wild birds living on or around water for avian influenza viruses (passive and active wild bird monitoring, particularly by field-collected fecal samples)
  • No contact of hunters who have been in contact with game birds with domestic poultry; in areas where fowl plague has been detected in wild birds ban on game bird hunting
  • Avoidance of direct contact between humans and pet animals and dead or ill wild birds
  • Assessment of practicability of the measures foreseen in the animal disease emergency plans and, if necessary, revision of plans.

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Full-length risk estimation dated January 24, 2017 (in German language only)

Risk Estimation, 22.12.2016

The detection of HPAIV H5N8 in 16 European countries (Hungary, Poland, Croatia, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, France, Romania, Serbia, Great Britain, Greece, and Bulgaria) and the rapid distribution of the virus indicate a currently highly dynamic spread of the infection. The number of cases reported from various parts of Europe increases daily; often also birds kept in zoological gardens and animal parks are affected. In Germany, the case numbers in wild birds and the number of outbreaks in poultry holdings and zoological gardens have reached an unprecedented level.

While in the 2014/2015 outbreak HPAIV H5N8 was only sporadically detected in healthy appearing wild birds (three mallard ducks, one common teal and one sea gull), currently a large number of dead water birds and carrion-eating birds of prey, e.g. buzzards, white-tailed eagles and sea gulls, is found. So far, the virus has been detected in 35 different bird species including species belonging to the categories diving ducks, grebes, sea gulls, swans, in isolated cases dabbling ducks (mallard duck), geese, birds of prey and also carrion-eating songbirds (e.g. crows). As at present mainly wild birds which have been found dead are investigated, it is unknown which other bird species may possibly carry the virus and do not develop symptoms of disease or die. It must be concluded that there is an ongoing HPAI H5N8 epidemics among wild water bird species and that the dead birds found possibly represent no more than the tip of the iceberg.

Infected but asymptomatic wild birds as well as birds during the incubation period continue to be mobile virus carriers. Many water bird species (e.g. geese, some duck species) move between cropland where they stay during the day and waterbodies where they rest during the evening and night. They can excrete the virus with the feces and contaminate the respective surfaces and waterbodies. Furthermore, predators (mammals such as foxes and martens, but also birds of prey and crows) may break up carcasses of dead waterfowl and carry away parts of the carcasses or inner organs, thus causing a considerable contamination of the environment. Persons and vehicles accessing contaminated areas may spread the virus and introduce it into poultry holdings.

In Germany, HPAIV H5N8 so far has been introduced into twelve poultry holdings and four zoos/animal parks. Almost all of these holdings are located in areas where increased numbers of dead water birds, in many cases infected with HPAI H5N8, have been found. In all these cases, direct or indirect introduction via contaminated material (shoes, vehicles, objects) is the most likely route of infection.

First genetic analyses show a similarity to H5N8 viruses which were first detected in Southern Russia in the summer of 2016. These viruses show clear genetic differences to H5N8 viruses which occurred in Europe in 2014/2015. Therefore, the virus has been newly introduced, most likely by the same route as in 2014, i.e. via Russia by wild birds. Phylogenetic analyses lead to the assumption that on the way from Central Asia to Central Europe reassortment events with at least one other avian influenza virus have taken place. The observed increased virulence in waterfowl correlates with the modified composition of the genome segments of the currently circulating H5N8 compared to the virus which circulated in 2014/2015.

So far, no human cases of HPAIV H5N8 infection have been reported. Due to the genetic variability no reliable conclusions with regard to the virulence of the currently circulating pathogen are possible at present.

Conclusions and recommendations

Due to the current spread of HPAIV H5N8 in wild birds in Europe and in currently 15 affected German States the risk of introduction into domestic poultry holdings and captive bird holdings in zoological gardens through direct and indirect contacts between wild birds and domestic poultry is estimated to be high, particularly for holdings in the vicinity of resting and gathering areas of waterfowl, including agricultural crop land where wild birds gather.

Protection of domestic poultry holdings from infection with HPAIV H5N8 is the highest priority. Emphasis is put on the creation of a physical and functional barrier between wild bird habitats and domestic poultry holdings. Mandatory indoor housing of poultry and other biosafety measures minimize the risk of direct and indirect contact with infected wild birds. In particular, indirect introduction routes, e.g. by feed contaminated by wild birds, water or contaminated litter and objects (shoes, wheelbarrows, vehicles etc.) must be cut off and adequate disinfection measures must be taken. Revision, optimization and strict implementation of biosafety measures are of utmost importance. Poultry farmers are obliged by law to observe basic biosafety rules.

In detail, the following recommendations are made:

  • Observance of strict biosafety measures in all poultry holdings, also small-scale holdings, zoological gardens, animal parks and shelters, including change of shoes and clothing, disinfection measures
  • Risk-based restriction of free-range husbandry (mandatory indoor housing) of poultry (at least in regions with a high wild bird density, a high poultry density, in the vicinity of wild bird resting and gathering areas, or locations where HPAIV H5N8 has been detected)
  • Indoor housing of zoo birds as far as possible, limited access to aviaries/bird shows
  • Prevention of access of free-range poultry to natural bodies of water
  • Increased investigations of poultry holdings; in galliform birds increased clinical examinations, in geese and ducks PCR testing of combined pharyngeal and cloacal swabs pursuant to the legal regulations
  • Poultry holdings which have been exempt from mandatory indoor housing should be investigated clinically and virologically at three-week-intervals maximum
  • Ban on live bird exhibitions of any kind until further notice
  • Notification of the responsible veterinary authority in case of dead or ill wild birds and mammals in areas where increased numbers of dead wild birds have been found
  • Increased investigation of dead wild birds or wild birds living on or around water for avian influenza viruses (passive and active wild bird monitoring, particularly by field-collected fecal samples)
  • No contact of hunters who have been in contact with game birds with domestic poultry; in areas where fowl plague has been detected in wild birds ban on game bird hunting
  • Avoidance of direct contact between humans and pet animals and dead or ill wild birds
  • Assessment of practicability of the measures foreseen in the animal disease emergency plans and, if necessary, revision of plans.

Risk Estimation, 02.12.2016

Due to the current spread of HPAIV H5N8 in wild birds in Europe and in currently 13 affected German States the risk of introduction into domestic poultry holdings and captive bird holdings in zoological gardens through direct and indirect contacts between wild birds and domestic poultry is estimated to be high, particularly for holdings in the vicinity of resting and gathering areas of waterfowl, including agricultural crop land where wild birds gather. 

Protection of domestic poultry holdings from infection with HPAIV H5N8 is the highest priority. Emphasis is put on the creation of a physical and functional barrier between wild bird habitats and domestic poultry holdings. Mandatory indoor housing of poultry and other biosafety measures minimize the risk of direct and indirect contact with infected wild birds. In particular, indirect introduction routes, e.g. by feed contaminated by wild birds, water or contaminated litter and objects (shoes, wheelbarrows, vehicles etc.) must be cut off and adequate disinfection measures must be taken. Revision, optimization and strict implementation of biosafety measures are of utmost importance. Poultry farmers are obliged by law to observe basic biosafety rules.

In detail, the following recommendations are made:

  • Observance of strict biosafety measures in all poultry holdings, also small-scale holdings and zoological gardens including change of shoes and clothing, disinfection measures
  • Risk-based restriction of free-range husbandry (mandatory indoor housing) of poultry (at least in regions with a high wild bird density, a high poultry density, in the vicinity of wild bird resting and gathering areas, or locations where HPAIV H5N8 has been detected)
  • Indoor housing of zoo birds as far as possible, limited access to aviaries/bird shows
  • Prevention of access of free-range poultry to natural bodies of water
  • Notification of the responsible veterinary authority in case of dead or ill wild birds
  • Increased investigations of poultry holdings; in galliform birds increased clinical examinations, in geese and ducks PCR testing of combined pharyngeal and cloacal swabs pursuant to the legal regulations
  • Poultry holdings which have been exempt from mandatory indoor housing should be investigated clinically and virologically at three-week-intervals maximum
  • Ban on live bird exhibitions of any kind until further notice
  • Notification of the responsible veterinary authority in case of dead or ill wild birds
  • Increased investigation of dead wild birds or wild birds living on or around water for avian influenza viruses (passive and active wild bird monitoring, particularly by field-collected faecal samples)
  • No contact of hunters who have been in contact with game birds with domestic poultry; in areas where fowl plague has been detected in wild birds ban on game bird hunting
  • Avoidance of direct contact between humans and pet animals and dead or ill wild birds
  • Assessment of practicability of the measures foreseen in the animal disease emergency plans and, if necessary, revision of plans.

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For download: Full-length risk estimation dated 2 December 2016 (in German language only)

Risk Estimation, 25.11.2016

Due to the current spread of HPAIV H5N8 in wild birds in Europe and in currently 13 affected German States the risk of introduction into domestic poultry holdings through direct and indirect contacts between wild birds and domestic poultry is estimated to be high, particularly for holdings in the vicinity of resting and gathering areas of waterfowl, including agricultural crop land where wild birds gather. 

Protection of domestic poultry holdings from infection with HPAIV H5N8 is the highest priority. Emphasis is put on the creation of a physical and functional barrier between wild bird habitats and domestic poultry holdings. Mandatory indoor housing of poultry and other biosafety measures minimize the risk of direct and indirect contact with infected wild birds. In particular, indirect introduction routes, e.g. by feed contaminated by wild birds, water or contaminated litter and objects (shoes, wheelbarrows, vehicles etc.) must be cut off and adequate disinfection measures must be taken. Revision, optimization and strict implementation of biosafety measures are of utmost importance. Poultry farmers are obliged by law to observe basic biosafety rules.

In detail, the following recommendations are made:

  • Observance of strict biosafety measures in all poultry holdings, also small-scale holdings, including change of shoes and clothing, disinfection measures
  • Risk-based restriction of free-range husbandry (mandatory indoor housing) of poultry (at least in regions with a high wild bird density, a high poultry density, in the vicinity of wild bird resting and gathering areas, or locations where HPAIV H5N8 has been detected)
  • Indoor housing of zoo birds as far as possible, limited access to aviaries/bird shows
  • Prevention of access of free-range poultry to natural bodies of water
  • Notification of the responsible veterinary authority in case of dead or ill wild birds 
  • Increased investigations of poultry holdings; in galliform birds increased clinical examinations, in geese and ducks PCR testing of combined pharyngeal and cloacal swabs pursuant to the legal regulations
  • Poultry holdings which have been exempt from mandatory indoor housing should be investigated clinically and virologically at three-week-intervals maximum
  • Poultry exhibitions should be banned; the same applies to dove exhibitions (although so far doves have not been affected by H5N8 infections)
  • Notification of the responsible veterinary authority in case of dead or ill wild birds
  • Increased investigation of dead wild birds or wild birds living on or around water for avian influenza viruses (passive and active wild bird monitoring, particularly by field-collected faecal samples)
  • No contact of hunters who have been in contact with game birds with domestic poultry; if required ban on game bird hunting
  • Avoidance of direct contact between humans and pet animals and dead or ill wild birds
  • Assessment of practicability of the measures foreseen in the animal disease emergency plans and, if necessary, revision of plans.

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For download:

Full-length risk estimation dated 25 November 2016 (in German language only)

Risk Estimation, 18.11.2016

Due to the current spread of HPAIV H5N8 in wild birds in Europe and in currently eight affected German States the risk of introduction into domestic poultry holdings through direct and indirect contacts between wild birds and domestic poultry is estimated to be high, particularly for holdings in the vicinity of resting and gathering areas of waterfowl, including agricultural crop land where wild birds gather. 

Protection of domestic poultry holdings from infection with HPAIV H5N8 is the highest priority. Emphasis is put on the creation of a physical and functional barrier between wild bird habitats and domestic poultry holdings. Mandatory indoor housing of poultry and other biosafety measures minimize the risk of direct and indirect contact with infected wild birds. In particular, indirect introduction routes, e.g. by feed contaminated by wild birds, water or contaminated litter and objects (shoes, wheelbarrows, vehicles etc.) must be cut off and adequate disinfection measures must be taken. Revision, optimization and strict implementation of biosafety measures are of utmost importance. Poultry farmers are obliged by law to observe basic biosafety rules.

In detail, the following recommendations are made:

  • Observance of strict biosafety measures in all poultry holdings, also small-scale holdings, including change of shoes and clothing, disinfection measures
  • Risk-based restriction of free-range husbandry (mandatory indoor housing) of poultry (at least in regions with a high wild bird density, a high poultry density, in the vicinity of wild bird resting and gathering areas, or locations where HPAIV H5N8 has been detected)
  • Indoor housing of zoo birds as far as possible, limited access to aviaries/bird shows
  • Prevention of access of free-range poultry to natural bodies of water
  • Notification of the responsible veterinary authority in case of dead or ill wild birds 
  • Increased investigations of poultry holdings; in galliform birds increased clinical examinations, in geese and ducks PCR testing of combined pharyngeal and cloacal swabs pursuant to the legal regulations
  • Increased investigation of dead wild birds or wild birds living on or around water for avian influenza viruses (passive and active wild bird monitoring, particularly by field-collected faecal samples)
  • No contact of hunters who have been in contact with game birds with domestic poultry 
  • Avoidance of direct contact between humans and pet animals and dead or ill wild birds
  • Assessment of practicability of the measures foreseen in the animal disease emergency plans and, if necessary, revision of plans.

________________________

For download:

Full-length risk estimation dated 18 November 2016 (in German language only)

Due to the current spread of HPAIV H5N8 in wild birds in Poland, Hungary, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany the risk of introduction through direct and indirect contacts between wild birds and domestic poultry is assessed as high, particularly for holdings in the vicinity of resting and gathering areas of waterfowl. Currently, there is no evidence of virus mutations. So far, no cases of HPAIV H5N8 infections in humans have been reported. To date, no reliable data are available with regard to the virulence of the pathogen for humans, as virus mutations cannot be excluded.

Recommendations:

  • Observance of strict biosafety measures in poultry holdings
  • Risk-based restriction of free-range husbandry (indoor housing) of poultry in regions with a high wild bird density and in the vicinity of wild bird resting and gathering areas
  • Indoor housing of zoo birds as far as possible, limited access to aviaries/bird shows
  • Prevention of access of free-range poultry to natural bodies of waterNotification of the responsible veterinary authority in case of dead or ill wild birds 
  • Increased investigations of poultry holdings; in galliform birds increased clinical examinations, in geese and ducks PCR testing of combined pharyngeal and cloacal swabs
  • Increased investigation of dead wild birds or wild birds living on or around water for avian influenza viruses (passive and active wild bird monitoring, particularly by field-collected faecal samples)
  • No contact of hunters who have been in contact with game birds with domestic poultry 
  • Avoidance of direct contact between humans and pet animals and dead or ill wild birds
  • Assessment of practicability of the measures foreseen in the animal disease emergency plans and, if necessary, revision of plans.

Risk Assessment, 14.03.2016

The worldwide avian influenza situation, triggered by different influenza A virus subtypes has calmed down after peaking in the first half of 2015. 

In Europe, the last detection of lineage clade 2.3.4.4 highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIV) H5N8 in poultry occurred in Hungary and in wild birds (two mute swans) in Sweden in February 2015. In July 2015, HPAIV H7N7 outbreaks were reported from the United Kingdom and Germany (Emsland), respectively. In Germany, the HPAIV and low pathogenic avian influenza virus (LPAIV) H7N7 were detected in the same poultry flock leading to the assumption that the virus has mutated during circulation within the flock. Between November 2015 and March 2016, France announced a total of 75 cases of HPAIV H5 of European origin in a majority of duck holdings. Several subtypes were isolated, among them LPAIV and HPAIV of subtypes H5N1, H5N2 and H5N9. An extensive restriction zone has been established to prevent the spread of HPAI H5 viruses within the EU.

Since April 2015, HPAIV clade 2.3.2.1c H5N1 outbreaks in poultry have continuously been reported from Africa and Asia. Between June 2015 and 29 February 2016, 263 outbreaks in poultry were notified to the World Organisation for Animal Health (Office International des Epizooties, OIE) from mainly Nigeria and Ghana. In Egypt, another HPAIV H5N1 (clade 2.2.1.2) has become endemic.

The HPAIV H5 (clade 2.3.4.4), which caused more than 200 outbreaks in Canada and in 15 states of the USA, has vanished in 2015 and not been reported in 2016. However, since the beginning of this year, an HPAIV H7N8 outbreak in a turkey holding has been announced from Indiana, USA.  

This risk assessment describes entry scenarios of HPAIV H5 and LPAIV H5 and H7 subtypes into Germany and the risk of outbreaks occurring due to these viruses in German poultry.

In summary, the risk for the introduction and spread of HPAIV into poultry holdings in Germany is assessed as low for legal trade from third countries and introduction through passenger and vehicle traffic. A moderate risk applies for illegal trade from third countries as well as trade between member states. Introduction and spread of HPAIV through wild birds presents a low-moderate risk, which will increase from August onwards due to migratory activity of the birds.