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Bird flu at Dutch poultry farms in 2020/2021

Published on
August 24, 2021

Wageningen Bioveterinary Research (WBVR) has confirmed yet another outbreak of bird flu in the Netherlands. In Heeten, highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N8 was found in ornamental waterfowl of a hobby farmer. To prevent the virus from spreading, all 665 birds at the infected location have been culled by the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA).

This outbreak shows that the H5 avian influenza virus is still present in the Netherlands. It is important to remain alert for symptoms in wild birds and to report dead wild birds to the NVWA. For poultry farmers, a good biosecurity status and alertness to possible infections remain of great importance.

Transport ban

The Dutch government has announced an immediate transport ban in a zone of 10 kilometres around the farm in Heeten. There are 36 other poultry farms in this area. A transport ban applies to poultry, eggs, poultry manure and litter, but also to other animals and animal products from poultry farms.

Overview of previous Dutch farms with bird flu

Below is an overview of previous bird flu infections on commercial poultry farms in the Netherlands in 2020/2021.

Location Type of farm Number of animals Type Date test result
Weert Turkeys 13,000 HPAI H5N8 21 May 2021
Sint-Oedenrode Laying hens 35,000 HPAI H5N8 22 Feb 2021
Moergestel Turkeys 18,000 HPAI H5N8 5 Jan 2021
Buitenpost Breeding farm - chickens 28,000 HPAI H5N1* 15 Dec 2020
Sint Annaparochie Broilers 21,000 HPAI H5N8 7 Dec 2020
Maasland Chickens 500 HPAI H5N8 5 Dec 2020
Hekendorp Laying hens 100,000 HPAI H5N8 22 Nov 2020
Witmarsum Broilers 90,000 HPAI H5N8 21 Nov 2020
Terwolde Meat ducks 20,000 HPAI H5N8 13 Nov 2020
Lutjegast Laying hens 48,000 HPAI H5N8 10 Nov 2020
Puiflijk Laying hens 100,000 HPAI H5N8 5 Nov 2020
Altforst Broiler breeders 35,700 HPAI H5N8 29 Oct 2020

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

The obligation to house commercially kept poultry is withdrawn. It is still very important that appropriate hygiene measures are taken to minimise the risk of infection. For keepers of laying hens, breeding animals and broilers a stricter reporting obligation stays 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.

Housing requirement withdrawn

The requirement to keep commercial poultry indoors was lifted on 6 July 2021. As a result of the outbreak in Heeten, the government has asked the expert group on Animal Diseases for a risk assessment for this region and for the whole of the Netherlands. The experts conclude that the risk has not changed since the last risk assessment. The government therefore sees no reason at this time to take additional measures, such as a regional or national obligation to keep animals indoors. All parties involved, including WBVR, will keep a close eye on the bird migration season and, if necessary, tighten the requirements at a later date. The monitoring of dead wild birds is ongoing in the Netherlands, and the monitoring of live wild birds will be started.