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Bird flu at Dutch poultry farms in 2020/2021

Published on
January 5, 2021

Wageningen Bioveterinary Research (WBVR) has confirmed yet another introduction of bird flu at a Dutch poultry farm. It concerns the highly pathogenic H5N8 strain on a turkey farm in Moergestel. There are no other poultry farms within the 1 kilometer zone. To prevent the virus from spreading, the farm is culled by the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA). In total, this concerns approximately 18,000 animals.

In the 3 kilometer zone around the infected farm there are no other poultry farms. In the 10 kilometer zone, there are 21 other poultry farms. In this zone a transport ban applies. This ban covers poultry, eggs, poultry manure and used bedding, as well as other animals and certain products from commercial poultry companies.

Overview of previously infected poultry

Below is an overview of previous bird flu infections on commercial poultry farms in the Netherlands.

Location Type of farm Number of animals Type Date test result
Buitenpost Breeding farm 28,000 HPAI H5N1* 15 Dec
Sint Annaparochie Broilers 21,000 HPAI H5N8 7 Dec
Maasland Poultry 500 HPAI H5N8 5 Dec
Hekendorp Laying hens 100,000 HPAI H5N8 22 Nov
Witmarsum Broilers 90,000 HPAI H5N8 21 Nov
Terwolde Ducks for meat 20,000 HPAI H5N8 13 Nov
Lutjegast Laying hens 48,000 HPAI H5N8 10 Nov
Puiflijk Laying hens 100,000 HPAI H5N8 5 Nov
Altforst Broiler breeders 35,700 HPAI H5N8 29 Oct

HPAI = highly pathogenic avian influenza

*H5N1 bird flu

The HPAI H5N1 virus at the farm in Buitenpost is the first introduction of this subtype virus in poultry in Europe. The H5N1 virus was found in several wild birds in the Netherlands. Genetic analyses shows that the virus in these wild birds is related to the HPAI H5N8 virus in the Netherlands. This H5N1 virus is not related to the virus that infected people in Asia. WBVR will will determine the entire genome sequence of the H5N1 virus found at the farm, and study the relationship with wild bird viruses in the Netherlands.

Measures

All current national measures, such as the obligation to house commercially kept poultry, will remain in full force. As of this week, for keepers of laying hens, breeding animals and broilers a stricter reporting obligation is in place. They must report the loss of animals to the NVWA sooner. This allows bird flu infections to come to light earlier and reduces the risk of spreading.

In addition, zoos, petting zoos and hobby bird owners are required to shield their poultry and waterfowl so that these animals do not come into contact with wild waterfowl and their droppings. This can be done, for example, by keeping the animals in an aviary or by placing them in a run. Furthermore, a ban has been imposed on the display of ornamental poultry and water birds.

Multiple types of avian flu in the Netherlands

Highly pathogenic avian influenza type H5N8 was found on all farms. The majority of dead wild birds were also infected with the H5N8 virus. However, highly pathogenic H5N1 or H5N5 viruses were detected in a few birds. These viruses are related to the H5N8 virus and are the result of exchange of genetic material with low pathogenic avian flu viruses. The H5N1 virus in the Netherlands is therefore not related to the H5N1 virus that infected people in Asia. The risk to public health from the viruses in the Netherlands is estimated to be low.

Wild birds

In particular in the north and west of the Netherlands, many sick or dead wild birds are currently found that test positive for avian flu. These birds are sent and examined. The advice is not to pick up dead birds yourself, but to report this to the Dutch Wildlife Health Center or the NVWA. Every week the NVWA places an update on the website where dead wild birds are found that are infected with the virus. Or see the overview map by WBVR elsewhere on this page.