Bird flu in 2016 spread by wild migratory birds

Published on
November 13, 2017

The H5N8 bird flu virus was identified in the Netherlands in November 2016. A large number of dead wild birds were found and the virus spread to various poultry farms. Studies by Wageningen Bioveterinary Research now show that the bird flu virus identified in 2016 was brought over to the Netherlands by wild migratory birds from Russia.

Wild migratory birds from Russia

Wageningen Bioveterinary Research studied how the virus spread in the Netherlands, comparing the genetic composition of the virus in poultry with the composition of the virus in wild birds. The virus related to poultry was found in geese, wild ducks, tufted ducks, and widgeons. Most of these bird species were found to inhabit an area nearby contaminated farms. The big question is how the virus entered the poultry farms, because direct contact between the wild birds and poultry can be excluded. Most likely the excrements of infected wild birds in the surroundings were brought into the stable by foot or by transported materials.

Research has revealed that various strains of the H5N8 bird flu virus were circulating in the Netherlands in 2016. These were carried over to the country by wild migratory birds from Russia.

No inter-farm contamination

The research also compared the viruses found at poultry farms. In most cases (with the exception of Biddinghuizen) the viruses were not related. This shows that there was no inter-farm contamination.

This article provides more information on the origin and genetic composition of the H5N8 bird flu virus in the Netherlands.