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Warning over avian influenza returning to Europe this winter

Mallards swimming

AUTHORITIES have urged poultry producers to remain vigilant in the coming weeks as highly pathogenic avian influenza is likely to return to Northern and Eastern Europe.

There have been several outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in western Russia and Kazakhstan over the past few weeks, a known Autumn migration route for wild waterbirds heading to Europe.

See also: Russia hit by 30 outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza

When HPAI was detected in the same area of Russia in the summer of both 2005 and 2016, epidemics followed in northern and eastern Europe, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has warned.

“If the pattern is repeated this year, HPAI is expected to arrive in the same areas of Europe in autumn or winter. Subsequent spread to countries in southern and western Europe is also possible.”

The spread of the virus is likely to be triggered by sudden and persistent falls in temperature in central Russia and Kazakhstan.

Winter approaching

Several studies demonstrate that cold weather conditions led to the rapid westward expansion of the HPAI virus by infected migratory birds during the 2005-2006 and 2016-2017 waves of HPAI.

Defra published its latest assessment of HPAI in Russia on 4 September.

At the time it said the risk of incursion to the UK remained low but would depend on biosecurity being maintained.

EFSA has produced a detailed report into the situation, which can be accessed on its website.