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Outbreaks of H5N8 in Europe - 2016-2017

H5N8 has replaced H5N1 as the problem bird flu virus in Europe this winter. The H5N8 strain of bird flu first appeared in South Korea in early 2014. The virus later spread to Japan, North America and Europe in 2015.

The virus continued to move across Europe and by November 2016, 190,000 ducks were culled inthe Netherlands.Following the discovery of cases in wild birds in northern France and further outbreaks across Europe, the disease has been linked to migratory birds. Cases were discovered in gulls in Pas-de-Calais and Haute-Savoie.

The 2016 European situation led to the UK Chief Vet declaring a 'Prevention Zone' (from December 6, 2016) with enhanced biosecurity requirements for poultry and captive birds. Since then, there has been an outbreak in turkeys at Louth Linconshire, and incidences in wild birds in South Wales(22 Dec) and in Somerset and Leicestershire. A case in wild wigeon was also reported in Northern Ireland (31.12.16).

Up-to-date details are posted on the IRDC facebook page (use the link at the bottom of these main website pages).

Outbreaks of H5N8 in Europe - Autumn 2014

The highly contagious avian influenza virus has recently been detected in three European countries: in a turkey holding in Germany; three chicken holdings in the Netherlands and in a duck breeding holding in the United Kingdom.The flu viruses found in the EU are similar to one that affected poultry flocks in South Korea earlier this year. To date, there are no recorded cases of humans contracting the H5N8 virus.

Defra has confirmed a case of avian flu outbreak in a duck breeding farm in Yorkshire (November 2014) with very low risk to human health and no risk to the food chain.

Immediate action has been taken to control the outbreak including introducing a 10km restriction zone and a complete cull of all 6,000 birds on the farm to prevent any potential spread of infection. The case confirmed on Sunday afternoon has been identified as a H5 avian flu strain and tests are being run to identify the exact strain of the disease. Public Health England have confirmed the risk to public health is extremely low and we have ruled out the H5N1 strain that is infectious for humans.

Further advice from the Food Standards Agency is that avian flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.

Investigations are now ongoing to discover whether the outbreak is linked to cases found in Netherlands and Germany with further test results expected over the coming days. The UK has a strong track record of controlling and eliminating previous outbreaks of avian flu and all action will be taken to control this outbreak to prevent a further spread of the disease.

The restriction zone bans movements of all poultry, products and waste within the area. Poultry must be housed or isolated in the zone. Bird gatherings (fairs, shows, exhibitions) are banned and game birds cannot be released. External link image External link image

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Avian Influenza FAO Report March "Unfortunately, H5N1 may have slipped off the radar screen for some people but it continues to be a major problem, especially in Egypt and parts of Asia, where it is having a huge impact on food security and the livelihoods of farmers and local communities," said Juan Lubroth, FAO's Chief Veterinary Officer. H5N1 HPAI has not been restricted to Asia alone, he added, having also occurred in Europe, Central Asia and parts of Africa.

SOUTH KOREA - Sept 26, 2014. There has been 1,200 cases of H5N8 highly pathogenic avian influenza virus detected and confirmed on a duck farm in the Jeollanam-do region in the south-west of the country.

SOUTH EAST ASIA - Sept 22, 2014. A recently-emerged strain of avian influenza virus in poultry in Southeast Asia known as A(H5N6) represents a new threat to animal health and livelihoods and must be closely monitored, the FAO said.

Chinese authorities first reported the influenza A(H5N6) virus in poultry in April 2014. Since then, the Lao People's Democratic Republic and Viet Nam have also detected the H5N6 virus in poultry. "Influenza viruses are constantly mixing and recombining to form new threats," said FAO's Chief Veterinary Officer, Juan Lubroth. "However, H5N6 is particularly worrisome, since it has been detected in several places so far from one another, and because it is so highly pathogenic, meaning infected poultry quickly become sick and, within 72 hours, death rates are very high."

See Professor Marion Stamp Dawkins', Professor of Animal Behaviour of Oxford University, research into commercial duck welfare Full article on the Poultry Site.

"So how did the ducks rank a shower (more hygienic and economical) against actual bathing in a pond? Pretty highly, it turned out. Their health was good and they spend even more time with showers than with the ponds when given the choice. We found no evidence of them being deprived of anything if they just had showers. On the contrary, showers were, from their point of view and ours, a very good substitute."

Duvets: a nightmare for geese - see the WSPA website

A shocking documentary series has revealed that many duvets are stuffed with down plucked from live geese, a practice that causes acute suffering. WSPA is extremely disturbed by this fresh evidence about the global down industry. The first programme, shown on Swedish television channel TV4 on 1 February, revealed that millions of birds are plucked alive every year in Europe alone. The figure is even higher in China, the world’s largest producer of down and other feathers. China exports to a number of European countries where the down is used in duvets, pillows and jackets. Regardless of the origin of the feathers, the consequences for the geese are clear: they are tormented and badly stressed during the plucking process. WSPA is strongly opposed to the plucking of live birds. The footage – which is extremely distressing – can be viewed on the TV4 website

There is a European Convention for the Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes which recommends the plucking of feathers and down from live birds be prohibited -so why does it continue? Support the Four Paws petition liveplucking. While the European Union, represented by the scientific committee EFSA, is considering goose combing and brushing, the EU goose-meat producers are pointing the way towards reason. Combing and brushing are methods described by goose industry experts as uneconomical nonsense.

Pressure from Four Paws halts fattened goose production in Hungary External link image.

HUNGARY - Hungerit, one of the country's biggest poultry companies, has halted production of fattened goose products under pressure from Austrian animal rights organisation, Four Paws
"During the 2 weeks of force-feeding the animals become ill. The death rate in this period is 20 times higher than conventional duck meat production factories (source: EC commission). They die of heart attacks, internal bleeding or asphyxia. Also they suffer from injuries, getting cut on their beaks, wings and faces. Most of them see the world through pus covered, infected eyes, caused by the ammonia (NH3) gases that are emitted by the liquid manure under their cages. At the end of this life span the halls are dead silent. The animals can't move and can hardly breathe – because of their pathologically enlarged liver . They desperately try to get some oxygen by shallow breathing through their open beaks. Each movement or pressure can cause death now."

Chief Veterinary Officers from across the world are backing the move towards a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare which is supported by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and is being recognized by a growing number of government authorities and international organisations.

Members of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) gave overwhelming backing to the initiative at their annual meeting in Paris on Friday 25 May. The WSPA-supported initiative for a Universal Declaration for Animal Welfare working with HSI, RSPCA, CIWF, IFAW and the ASPCA to be adopted by the UN is currently gaining momentum around the world:

  • A global petition is close to achieving 500,000 signatures from members of the public all over the world
  • Government authorities in Kenya, India, the Philippines, Costa Rica and the Czech Republic are officially backing the Declaration

To find out more about the Universal Declaration for Animal Welfare visit the Animals Matter website External link image Site managed by the World Society For the Protection of Animals - WSPA

Article Points to Human and Animal Welfare Costs of Long- Distance Farm Animal Transport

Press release (Oct. 26, 2009) - A chapter in the upcoming book Handbook of Disease Outbreaks: Prevention, Detection and Control implicates the long-distance transport of farm animals in the spread of human and animal diseases. The chapter, “Disease and transport: a costly ticket around the world,” was co-authored by Michael Greger, M.D., Humane Society International’s director of public health and animal agriculture, along with Sofia Parente, Michael Appleby and Jennifer Lanier of The World Society for the Protection of Animals. It examines the animal and human health implications of transporting animals over long distances and explores measures to limit long-distance transport of animals for slaughter.

The paper concludes that replacement of long-distance, live farm animal transport with a carcass-only trade is "not only necessary but urgent."


  • More than 60 billion animals are reared for meat, eggs and milk annually worldwide. Most are transported for slaughter, often over long distances, both within and between countries.
  • According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, "transport of livestock is undoubtedly the most stressful and injurious stage in the chain of operations between farm and slaughterhouse."
  • The FAO describes live animal transport as "ideally suited for spreading disease."
  • Given the associated "serious animal and public health problems," the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe has called for the replacement of the long-distance transportation of live animals for slaughter as much as possible by a carcass-only trade.

Media Contact: Kristen Eastman, 301-721-6440,

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The welfare discussion document, Avian Strategy For Hobbyist Livestock and Pet Birds, has been eight months in the making. It was put together by the National Committee for Bird Strategy, a group of eight specialist societies: the British Waterfowl Association, Hawk Board, National Council for Aviculture, National Pigeon Association of Great Britain, Parrot Society UK , Pet Care Trust, PCGB and World Pheasant Association.

In its final form it will become England's Health and Welfare Strategy for Birds - the basis for official best-practice guidelines to be followed by fanciers.

The draft strategy has four main aims:

  • To bring all hobbyist birdkeepers together and develop a national strategy pro­gram under one umbrella;
  • To maintain participation in birdkeeping;
  • To raise birdkeeping skills, training and standards; and
  • To improve the quality and breeding of birds under hobbyist control.

The document also reviews issues such as medicine needs, bird welfare standards, health surveillance arrangements and companion bird research.