EUROPE’S food safety authority, Efsa, has said continued surveillance for avian influenza will remain important despite cases dropping to low levels.

The lowest number of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) cases in poultry and wild birds since 2019/2020 has been recorded by authorities on the continent.

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The latest quarterly report covers 16 March-14 June this year, and Efsa said the improved situation could be linked to several factors.

“These may include: immunity developed by wild birds following previous infection; reduction of certain wild bird populations; decreased environmental contamination; and changes in the composition of viral genotypes,” the report said.

There were 42 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A(H5) virus detections were reported in domestic (15) and wild (27) birds across 13 countries in Europe.

It also notes the “continuous circulation of HPAI virus in wild birds in Europe throughout the year, albeit at low numbers”, recommending close surveillance in the run-up to the next AI season.

Rest of the world

Efsa’s report also notes the ongoing outbreaks in Australia, which are now causing egg shortages in supermarkets.

“The different subtypes circulating in Australia are currently not reported in the rest of the world.”

And in the US, there is an “unexpected diversity of mammal species affected by HPAI as well as the different viral genotypes circulating among poultry, wild birds, and mammals”.

In particular, large numbers of dairy cattle are testing positive for a new H5N1 strain that has been identified in more than 130 herds across 12 states.