The German veterinary authorities confirmed an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza at a broiler turkey farm in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern on 5th November, 2014. This was followed by reports of an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza at a Dutch poultry farm on 15th November, 2014 and another report of an outbreak of avian pox at a duck farm in North Yorkshire, England on 17th November, 2014. An avian influenza outbreak was then reported at Rostock Zoo in January 2015, where 60 birds died and 43 birds showed symptoms of the highly pathogenic H5N8. HPAI subtype H5N8 was also found in a broiler turkey flock of 32,000 animals in Porto Viro, Northern Italy on 16th December, 2014.
The avian influenza virus detected in Germany, the Netherlands and England was a subtype H5N8 virus, which is highly pathogenic for poultry. The relevant veterinarian authorities in the European countries affected (Germany, Netherlands, England) enacted the measures required (restricted areas, safety areas, embargos). The animals in the infected flocks were culled and their cadavers disposed of safely.
This was the first time that the H5N8 influenza virus was detected in poultry in Europe. Up to then, the virus had been detected in wild birds and poultry in Asia (South Korea, Japan and Eastern China). The virus A (H5N8) broke out on a larger scale in Asia several months ago. As a result, millions of animals had to be culled in Asia. It is not known how the virus came to Europe. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) did not exclude a link between the latest avian influenza outbreaks in Germany, the Netherlands and the UK. Worldwide transmission of the virus via infected wild birds cannot be excluded. Thus, the pathogen could appear “anytime, anywhere”.
Poultry farmers should look out for symptoms in their animals and inform their veterinarian, as required.
At present, there are no known cases of the H5N8 virus being transmitted from animals to humans. Furthermore, no cases of human diseases were reported in connection with the outbreaks in South Korea, Japan and China. Human infections with the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus subtype H5N8, which had been identified in Europe at the time, cannot be excluded entirely. Thus, increased protective measures must be observed when handling potentially infected poultry and wild birds.
Network of expertise on animal influenza (www.offlu.net, englisch)
OIE-Questions and answers to influenza H5N8
FLI-Avian Influenza - Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany
Information - RKI/Germany
Report Avian Influenza - United Kingdom (www.gov.uk)