While the situation in poultry has eased over the summer, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus continued to affect seabirds in Europe, mostly along coastlines. As the autumn migratory season starts, the protection of poultry and other farmed animals from wild birds should be prioritised. Biosecurity should be enhanced in fur animal farms.

Between 24 June and 1 September 2023, 507 HPAI outbreaks were reported in domestic (25) and wild (482) birds across 21 European countries, according to the latest report on avian influenza by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and the EU reference laboratory (EURL) at the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie (IZSVe).

Wild and domestic carnivores continued to be the most affected mammal species, with Finland reporting 26 outbreaks in fur farms keeping America mink, red and Arctic foxes, and common raccoon. The most likely source of introduction was contact with wild gulls, but between-farm transmission cannot be completely excluded. Within-farm transmission occurred with some contact animals not showing any clinical signs of infection.

The disease affects several sectors, according to Dr Calogero Terregino, director of the EURL:

“Once again avian influenza has been confirmed to be a serious threat to veterinary health, a disease that is able to cause great economic losses to the poultry sector worldwide, a serious risk to biodiversity due to the involvement of threatened or unique wildlife species, such as the ones living in the Galapagos Islands. The persistence of spillover events in humans, however limited, as well as the massive and prolonged circulation of the virus in animals, makes it necessary to maintain a high level of attention for this disease. It is essential that all actors having a key role in the prevention and control of influenza epidemics continue to work together in making control strategies and prevention plans increasingly effective”.

Since the last report as of 28 September 2023, two A(H5N1) clade virus detections in humans have been reported by the United Kingdom, and three human infections with A(H5N6) and two with A(H9N2) were reported from China, respectively. ECDC assessed that the risk of infection with HPAI virus in Europe remains low for the general population, and low to moderate for occupationally or otherwise exposed people to infected birds or mammals (wild or domestic). To further reduce the risk of infection, experts recommend avoiding exposure to dead or diseased seabirds or mammals.