EU on alert for new bird flu outbreaks

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) on Wednesday urged the member states of the European Union (EU) to step up their surveillance and bio-security measures against possible outbreaks of avian influenza (bird flu) this year.

The warning came after outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) among wild and domestic birds in western Russia and Kazakhstan over the past few months, the ECDC said in a press release. The region is a known autumn migration route for wild water birds heading to Europe, it added.

Based on past bird migration data, northern and eastern Europe are considered to be the most vulnerable regions to new outbreaks. Moreover, the urgency of the warning increases if temperatures in the already affected areas were to suddenly drop, the ECDC said.

Assessing the risk of transmission of avian influenza viruses to the general public in Europe as “very low,” the report recommends that EU states immediately increase bio-security measures at poultry farms in particular, and advises warning veterinary and wildlife health authorities of the likely risk and urging them to promptly test dead or sick wild birds.