FAQ Bird Flu

Changed on: 17.12.2020

Animal disease categories:

What role do migratory birds play in the spread of highly pathogenic H5N8?

Wild birds are a natural reservoir for avian influenza viruses (AIV) and spread them. It is not known how far infected wild birds can fly, but an infected bird does not have to travel long distances: Chains of infection can build up from resting place to resting place, through which the virus is passed on even over very long distances.

Which wild birds contribute to the spread?

Of importance are wild waterfowl and birds of prey. In Germany, H5N8 has so far been detected in wild birds in samples from dead barnacle geese, whistling ducks and other goose species. However, there are is also an increasing number of cases in swans, gulls and birds of prey. The virus has not only been detected in dead ducks and geese but also in clinically healthy ducks and geese and in faecal samples from these birds.

Is it possible to distinguish between carrion-eating wild birds and those that are infected or have merely eaten contaminated carrion?

Yes, it is distinguishable: In an infected scavenger, there is a high viral load in the respiratory tract, not the digestive tract. This clearly indicates an infection with H5N8.

Do wild birds found dead have to be reported?

Any discovery of dead waterfowl or dead birds of prey must be reported to the competent district administrative authority. If necessary, the official veterinarian will arrange for the recovery of the dead waterfowl or birds of prey and send them to the national reference laboratory, the Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES).

Why is domestic poultry not vaccinated preventively?

Vaccination is not permitted in the EU. On the one hand, vaccinations against influenza often provide insufficient protection and, on the other hand, there is a risk that animals that are actually infected will not be detected, as it is not possible to reliably distinguish between infected and vaccinated animals.

Is there a health risk for humans?

Human infections with H5N8 or H5N5 viruses have not been detected so far. As with all avian influenza viruses, the recommended increased protection measures should be followed when handling potentially infected poultry and wild birds.

What does "compulsory stabling" mean?

Compulsory stabling means that poultry and other captive birds must be kept permanently indoors or in closed enclosures which are at least covered at the top. This is to prevent contact with wild birds and their droppings as far as possible and to completely exclude contact with wild waterfowl.

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