Monitoring ongoing disease outbreaks in Europe: Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) 2017-2018

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) is currently circulating in Europe, with outbreaks of disease in a number of countries. Three high pathogenic strains of Avian Influenza (AI) have been identified in the 2017/18 AI season: 1) HPAI H5N6 in England (Dorset), Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland, 2) HPAI H5N8 in Russia, Germany, Italy and Bulgaria, 3) HPAI H5N2 in Russia.

On the 10th January 2018, 3 Mute Swans found in Dorset (England) tested positive for HPAI H5N6. Further testing in the area has detected the virus in a total of 17 wild birds (15 mute swans, 1 Canada goose and 1 pochard). On the 18th January 2018, 13 dead wild birds were reported to have tested positive for HPAI H5N6 in Warwickshire (England). 

On the 19th January, at a nature reserve in Hertfordshire (England), another assemblage of dead wild birds was found and tested positive for H5N6. Among the 20 submissions, positive results were obtained from mallards, tufted ducks, greylag geese and a common gull. Week commencing 22nd January 2018, 12 wild birds tested positive for HPAI H5N6 in Rutland, West Yorkshire and North London (England). On the 1st March 2018 a dead buzzard found in Barry (Wales) tested positive for HPAI H5N6. On the 23rd of March 2018, a wild buzzard tested positive for HPAI H5N6 in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

An‘avian influenza prevention zone’ was declared on the 18th January 2018 to cover the whole of England and on the 25 January 2018 to cover the whole of Wales. This means it will be mandatory for all captive bird keepers in this Zone to put enhanced biosecurity measures in place.  This zone will be in place until further notice and will be kept under regular review as part of APHA's work to monitor the threat of bird flu. There are no restrictions on Scottish bird keepers at present. Scottish Government are continuing to monitor the situation across the UK and the rest of Europe, with EPIC providing scientific input as required. 


The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has updated the risk assessment for incursion of HPAI into the UK via wild bird movements.  More wild birds have tested positive and the two new sites in Warwickshire and Hertfordshire together with the species of bird involved has changed the risk level to “HIGH” for further incursions in wild birds in England and Wales, but remains "MEDIUM" for the rest of the UK. The exposure assessment for poultry has increased as a result of this new finding. There is still uncertainty around the transmissibility from gulls to poultry therefore where there are no additional biosecurity measures on the holding, the likelihood of a new poultry outbreak has increased to "MEDIUM". Where biosecurity is implemented well, the risk would be mitigated to LOW. 


Scottish Government are advising all bird keepers to maintain good levels of biosecurity and to remain vigilant for any signs of disease in their flock. 

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