Influenza A(H5N8) virus detected in birds in several countries in the WHO European Region

Since June 2016, several countries in the WHO European Region have reported infections of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A(H5N8) in wild birds and/or domestic poultry, including Austria, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Israel, the Netherlands, Poland, the Russian Federation and Switzerland.

This is the second reported outbreak of HPAI A(H5N8) in wild birds and poultry in countries in the Region since 2014. The detected viruses have caused deaths in bird populations and are likely spread via seasonal migratory routes.

Assessment of the risk of human transmission

The risk of transmission from birds to humans is relatively low, based on information obtained to date. However, although no human cases of HPAI A(H5N8) have ever been reported, it is important to remain vigilant. Sporadic human infections with similar types of avian influenza have occurred in the past and the possibility of the virus causing human infection cannot be excluded.

WHO will reassess the risk associated with the virus when more information is available.

Advice for the public

  • Avoid contact with any birds (poultry or wild birds) or other animals that are sick or found dead and report them to the relevant authorities.
  • Do not touch birds or carcasses with bare hands. If you must handle a carcass, wear gloves or use an inverted plastic bag to collect the bird, and then wash your hands properly with soap or a suitable disinfectant.
  • Follow good food safety and food hygiene practices in line with WHO’s Five Keys to Safer Food, such as cooking food thoroughly at sufficiently high temperatures.