Avian influenza season 2021-2022 is the largest in the history of Europe, with an unprecedented geographic expansion to 37 countries, including Portugal, warns the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) this Monday (in English).
Data released this Monday by a European organization indicates that bird flu highly pathogenic is “the largest observed in Europe” with a total of 2467 outbreaks in poultry, 48 million birds slaughtered in affected establishments and 187 detections in captive birds.
In addition, 3,573 cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza have been reported in wild birds, report continues European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and ECDC.
The European agency warns that, in addition to the number of reported cases, the “geographical scale of the outbreak is unprecedented” given that it stretches from the islands of Svalbard, an Arctic archipelago belonging to Norway, south of Portugal and east into Ukraine, affecting 37 countries in Europe.
No transmission from human
“Despite the exceptionally large number of recent cases in birds, as well as numerous transmission of avian influenza various mammalian species, no human transmission of the virus has been observed in the European Union and the European Economic Area in recent years,” the ECDC said in a statement.
The European Center says that only a small number of asymptomatic or mild symptomatic human infections have been reported worldwide, meaning that “the global risk to the population remains low, but somewhat higher for people with occupations.” contact with infected birds.
Influenza viruses circulating in animals such as pigs or birds can infect humans sporadically and can seriously affect public health, according to the ECDC.
An example of ECDC is the epidemics of H5N1 avian influenza in Egypt or H7N9 in Chinaor the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, caused by a virus that was originally transmitted from pigs to humans.
“It is critical that clinicians, laboratory and health experts in both animal husbandry and public health work together and take a coordinated approach. Surveillance is essential to detect infections caused by the influenza virus as early as possible,” emphasizes Andrea Ammon, director of ECDC.
New guidance published this Monday by the ECDC highlights the importance of safety and health measures in workplaces where contact with animals cannot be avoided, to be intensified in situations where zoonotic influenza has been identified in animals.
In addition bird farms must periodically review their risk assessment and ensure that all necessary technical, organizational, maintenance and hygiene measures are taken to prevent infection of workers.
According to the guidelines, public health workers should also be alert to the need for testing for possible infection in people with respiratory illnesses and recent contact with potentially infected animals.
“Testing for zoonotic influenza should also be considered in patients with severe acute respiratory illness of unknown origin, as well as critically ill patients with previous animal contact,” the ECDC said in a statement.
At the end of August, the General Directorate of Food and Veterinary Medicine (DGAV) stated that in Portugal at that time there were 25 foci of infection from bird flu.
The first outbreak of avian influenza was reported on November 30, 2021 in a poultry house in the Setúbal region, and since then until August 29, 25 outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza have been confirmed, 17 of them in poultry, including commercial turkey farms , chickens and ducks, a private collection of poultry, poultry and city park birds. There have also been eight cases in wild birds.