THE European Food Safety Authority, along with other agencies, have released their latest assessment of avian influenza, covering early December to March last year.
The report says that, between 3 December 2022 and 1 March 2023, there were 522 cases of HPAI H5N1 reported in domestic poultry and 1,138 detections in wild birds in 24 countries (including the UK).
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France was the hardest hit, with 191 cases, followed by Poland with 88 cases before numbers dropped off – Hungary had the third highest number of cases with 31.
In the UK there were 19 cases reported, on par with Germany (20). Netherlands and Belgium reported just 3 and 6 cases respectively.
This contrasts with the previous reporting period, 10 September to 2 December 2022, when there were 115 cases in the UK in poultry, making Britain the hardest-hit nation.
In this most recent quarter, black-headed gulls were notable for the number of cases found, with mass die-offs found in France, the Netherlands and Italy. The report says a close genetic relationship of virus in those gulls suggested a southward spread of infection.
It adds that this inland spread of infected birds could increase the risk to producers on mainland Europe over the coming months.
A notable element to the document is the focus on increased detections of the virus in mammals over the past three months, though it concedes this is most likely because of the consumption of infected wild birds.
It notes a mass die-off of sea lions in Peru across January, as well as detections in humans in Cambodia, China, Ecuador and Vietnam.
“Mutations associated with genetic adaptation to mammals were detected in some of the circulating viruses in both mammals and birds,” the report’s summary says.
“In addition, recent mass mortality events in mammals such as sea lions suggest a potential transmission among mammals of the HPAI virus.
“In this context, EFSA and EURL scientists recommend extending and enhancing surveillance to wild and farmed mammals, particularly American mink and pigs, in certain areas where HPAI is present.”
The full report can be found on EFSA’s website.