TWENTY-SIX farms in Belgium have now been confirmed as having a low-path strain of H3N1 avian influenza, of which 13 are breeder farms.

The outbreak was first reported last week when seven poultry farms near Flanders were confirmed to have the virus, which is not a notifiable disease – meaning there are no official control measures required.

It has since spread, first to 16 farms over the weekend with a further 10 reported today according to sources close to the situation. More are expected to be confirmed in the coming days.

Its status as a non-notifiable disease means there is no obligation to “stamp out” the virus, and no compensation exists for birds lost.

Reports suggest affected farms are experiencing spikes in mortality in younger flocks of around 5%, but flocks of older hens affected have seen up to 50% mortality.

Producers across Western Europe, where the trade of live birds, eggs for consumption and hatching and feed are common across borders, have been urged to practice the best biosecurity.