Bird flu hit Europe harder than ever before last year. The European authorities EFSA and ECDC speak of the most devastating outbreak in history. Although the avian flu virus is usually harmless to humans, for infected wild birds, but especially for domestic poultry, an infection usually ends fatally. In addition, in the event of an avian flu outbreak in a domestic poultry flock, all birds must be killed to prevent the spread of the disease.
There is no explanation yet as to why bird flu has spread so massively at present, but there are a number of theories. For example, climate change may favor the spread of the viruses in that the migration routes of wild birds may change: Winter visitors such as wild geese arrive earlier, and some bird species even skip migration altogether. The increase in extreme weather events may cause increased stress in birds, which in turn may make them more susceptible to avian flu viruses or trigger increased evasive movements of flocks of birds. Last but not least, climatic changes may favor mutations of the different virus strains and thus possibly easier transmission to humans.
We monitor wild birds and domestic poultry in Austria for avian influenza. We use various detection methods to determine the type of virus; with this information, the authorities can take the necessary measures quickly and in a targeted manner in the event of an outbreak.