The European Commission has been informed by the French and the Austrian authorities of new suspected cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza in wild birds in their territories. Germany has also confirmed the occurrence of disease in Thuringia.
All three Member States are applying the precautionary measures set out under EU legislation. National laboratories are also working intensively to determine whether the outbreaks were caused by the H5N1 virus, and are keeping close contact with the Community Reference Laboratory for Avian Influenza in Weybridge, UK.
These latest wild bird cases follow the confirmation of H5N1 avian influenza on two poultry farms and in a wild swan in the Czech Republic, as well as cases of the disease in wild birds in Bavaria and Saxony over the last two weeks. The H5N1 virus was responsible for over 700 reported cases of avian influenza in wild birds in the EU last year.
In Germany, the national reference laboratory has now confirmed the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus in a black-necked grebe (Podiceps nigricollis) in Thuringia, close to the border with Saxony.
The French authorities have reported a suspicion of the H5 virus in 3 wild swans found dead in the Moselle department, and are carrying out further tests in the national reference laboratory to confirm the exact strain of the disease.
A suspicion of highly pathogenic avian influenza has also been reported in the district of Gmunden, Upper Austria, based on clinical signs of the disease in a number of wild birds. The Austrian national authorities have sent samples from these birds to the national reference laboratory and expect results on the strain of the virus in the coming days.
Germany, France and Austria have all responded rapidly to the suspected and confirmed findings of highly pathogenic avian influenza in wild birds, and are applying the measures set out in Commission Decision 2006/563/EC on protection measures in relation to highly pathogenic avian influenza of subtype H5N1 in wild birds in the Community. These measures consist of the establishment of a control area and a surrounding monitoring area around the positive finding. This zoning takes into the geographical, ecological and epidemiological factors of the area. In the control area, on-farm biosecurity measures must be strengthened, hunting of wild birds is banned, disease awareness of poultry owners must be enhanced, movement of poultry is banned except directly to the slaughterhouse and the dispatch of meat outside the zone is forbidden except where products have undergone the controls provided for in EU food controls legislation.
These measures are aimed at preventing the spread of avian influenza from wild birds to poultry or other captive birds, as well as avoiding the contamination of products.