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EU avian influenza threat likely to come from the east
Published:  19 October, 2017

Migratory wild birds crossing the north-eastern and eastern border of the European Union is the most likely pathway for avian influenza (AI) to enter the territory, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Its team of experts assessed the risk of AI entering the EU and reviewed surveillance approaches – which comprise monitoring by member states and the actions they take to minimise its spread.

In the study, four potential different geographical routes for the entry of wild birds into the EU were identified: the north-eastern route (NE; EU border with Russia and Belarus); eastern route (E, EU border with Ukraine, Moldova, Black Sea, Turkey until the southern border of Turkey); southern route (S, EU border from the southern border of Turkey to the northern border of Portugal); and north-western route (NW; EU border from north Portugal to north Russia).

According to the research, the NE and E routes have been associated with a high risk of H5 HPAIV-infected wild birds entering the EU. No H5 HPAIV incursion has been observed so far from the S and NW routes.

“This work will enhance the EU’s preparedness for avian influenza outbreaks, just ahead of the peak influenza season in autumn and winter,” said Arjan Stegeman, chair of the working group on avian influenza. “It would not have been possible without the close cooperation with member states affected by this epidemic.”

In its report, EFSA set out a series of recommendations to help stem AI outbreaks.

One of the main recommendations is that water birds found dead should be reported to the local veterinary authorities – particularly during the influenza season.

Testing farmed water birds – such as ducks and geese – for avian influenza is also recommended because they can easily come into contact with wild birds and then spread the virus.

Farmers and poultry keepers have also been advised to adopt appropriate management measures to increase biosecurity. These include preventing direct contact between wild water birds and poultry (by using nets or keeping poultry indoors during peak influenza season) and avoiding the movement of animals between farms.