First European outbreak of avian influenza A(H5N8) confirmed in poultry

Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have recently identified outbreaks of avian influenza. The first was reported on 5 November 2014 on a turkey farm in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. The virus was identified as highly pathogenic avian influenza A(H5N8). This is the first detection of this strain of avian influenza, also called bird flu, in Europe, although outbreaks continue in wild birds and poultry in Asia (China, Japan and the Republic of Korea). How the virus reached Europe is unknown, but testing in Germany revealed that the virus is similar to the one currently circulating in Asia.

The Netherlands outbreak was on a chicken farm in Hekendorp, north-east of Rotterdam; the virus was confirmed as H5N8 on 15 November 2014. A subsequent outbreak on a duck-breeding farm in East Yorkshire, United Kingdom was confirmed as H5N8 on 18 November. Since then two more outbreaks caused by highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N8 have been detected on two more poultry farms in the Netherlands.

Risk to the general public?

No cases of H5N8 in human beings are known, and the risk to the general public is extremely low. Nevertheless, national authorities are taking appropriate precautions as some avian influenza viruses can infect humans, and other H5 viruses (such as H5N1) have affected humans in the past. The H5N8 virus in Europe appears to be highly pathogenic, meaning that it is highly likely to cause disease and death in poultry. People in close contact with live poultry should watch out for any signs of illness in their flocks and immediately inform their veterinarians if they notice any cause of concern.
It is safe to eat properly cooked poultry products.

What authorities are doing

Veterinary and public health authorities are working together according to national, European Union (EU) and WHO guidelines, and have taken every reasonable precaution. For example, a protection zone and a surveillance zone have been put in place around affected premises to prevent the spread of disease. The poultry affected by the outbreak are being culled by personnel wearing personal protective equipment. They and anyone working on a farm who might have been exposed are being monitored and offered antiviral medication as a precaution. Their contacts are also being monitored for 10 days.