Avian Influenza

Aviäre Influenza

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Changed on: 14.06.2019
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Erreger der Vogelgrippe - Elektronenmikroskopie

Avian influenza, also referred to as bird flu or fowl pox, was first detected in Italy in 1878. Its pathogens are influenza viruses of the family Orthomoyxoviridae. They are classified in types A, B and C. Influenza virus A has various subtypes based on different surface antigens (neuraminidase, N and haemagglutinin H). There are constantly new influenza virus variants as a result of genetic mutations. At present, there are 16 haemagglutinin and 9 neurominidase subtypes. Influenza A viruses, subtype H5 and H7, are found in chickens, turkeys and many free-range bird species. Ducks, geese, pigeons and other wild birds rarely get infections or show no symptoms, but are a significant vector in the spreading of the viruses. There have been no reported cases of transmission of the H5N8 virus to humans to date.

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Erreger der Vogelgrippe - Elektronenmikroskopie

Avian influenza, also referred to as bird flu or fowl pox, was first detected in Italy in 1878. Its pathogens are influenza viruses of the family Orthomoyxoviridae. They are classified in types A, B and C. Influenza virus A has various subtypes based on different surface antigens (neuraminidase, N and haemagglutinin H). There are constantly new influenza virus variants as a result of genetic mutations. At present, there are 16 haemagglutinin and 9 neurominidase subtypes. Influenza A viruses, subtype H5 and H7, are found in chickens, turkeys and many free-range bird species. Ducks, geese, pigeons and other wild birds rarely get infections or show no symptoms, but are a significant vector in the spreading of the viruses. There have been no reported cases of transmission of the H5N8 virus to humans to date.

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H5N8 – Outbreaks in Europe

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.

Further Information

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)

Transmission

Avian pox is highly contagious in poultry. The virus is shed via faeces, saliva and lacrimal fluid. Large amounts of dust can also lead to indirect airborne infections.

Symptoms

Mass infections with severe respiratory symptoms, green, watery diarrhoea, the haemorrhaging of internal organs, tips of the combs and legs, the necrotic inflammation of the pancreas, tracheitis, sinusitis, oedema around the head, drastic decline in egg laying, fatigue, fever.


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