Since the end of October, the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (bird flu) has been detected in wild birds, especially cranes and greylag geese, in several regions of Austria. It can be assumed that already infected but still living wild birds are also present in these regions.
The virus is now also constantly present in the EU during the summer months. For this reason, this year all poultry farms in Austria had to comply with a minimum level of biosecurity measures throughout the year, including protecting poultry from contact with wild birds as much as possible, feeding and watering the animals only under cover and not using surface water for drinking.
Due to the recent increase in the number of wild birds detected, certain areas in Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria and Upper Austria have been declared areas with a greatly increased risk of avian influenza. In these areas, additional biosecurity measures apply until further notice to protect domestic poultry from possible infection:
- 50 birds or more must be kept permanently indoors or at least in covered enclosures (compulsory stabling)
- Poultry farmers who keep fewer than 50 birds are exempt from this obligation, provided they ensure that ducks and geese are kept separate from other poultry and that their poultry is protected from contact with wild birds
The rest of Germany remains an area with an increased risk of avian influenza; the applicable biosecurity measures must continue to be observed here.
These measures serve to protect domestic poultry from infection with highly pathogenic avian influenza in the best possible way: The highly pathogenic avian influenza virus can be transmitted very easily to domestic poultry through infected wild birds or their faeces and is usually fatal for chickens and turkeys. So far, no human cases have been detected in Europe during the current epidemic.
Virus now also detectable in summer
Due to an adaptation of the avian influenza virus to wild birds, the entire epidemiological situation has changed: While previous outbreaks in the EU occurred in the winter months, the virus is now also constantly present in the EU during the summer months.
With the onset of the cold season, outbreaks of avian influenza are expected to increase again. The current designation of areas with a greatly increased risk of avian influenza was made in close cooperation between the Ministry of Health and experts from AGES, the provinces, the University of Veterinary Medicine and the poultry industry.
The current avian influenza risk is evaluated by AGES on an ongoing basis, taking into account the occurrence of the pathogen in Austria as well as the disease situation in neighbouring member states, climatic conditions and known migratory bird routes. Based on this data, areas with a significantly increased risk of avian influenza may be expanded in the coming weeks. The special measures will be withdrawn as soon as the situation allows.