Avian flu and human health concerns: Response to H5N8 outbreaks in the EU

24-06-2015

Avian influenza (AI), a highly contagious viral disease, can affect wild birds as well as poultry raised for food. In February 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned about the unprecedented diversity and geographical distribution of AI viruses circulating in wild and domestic birds. Genetic material is being exchanged very rapidly among the different viruses. This way novel viruses are emerging, whose potential impact on animal and human health is difficult to predict. Some strains of avian flu, such as H5N1 and H7N9, can be transmitted to humans. The WHO is particularly concerned about the recent rapid increase in human H5N1 cases in Egypt and the continuing incidence of human H7N9 infections in China. Due to strict food safety and veterinary measures, poultry meat and eggs sold in the EU can be considered as safe. Caution is needed, however, when handling infected poultry. At the end of 2014, MEPs posed several written questions to the Commission about H5N8 – the new highly pathogenic strain of the avian flu virus found in Member States – enquiring about the measures taken to prevent a new epidemic and about the EU's readiness to provide funding in the event of outbreaks. Actions in response to the outbreaks in late 2014 included culling infected poultry, as well as monitoring of the situation by the Commission, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Wild birds are natural reservoirs for AI viruses. To better understand how these viruses evolve and spread, experts propose a globally coordinated surveillance system for wild birds.

Avian influenza (AI), a highly contagious viral disease, can affect wild birds as well as poultry raised for food. In February 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned about the unprecedented diversity and geographical distribution of AI viruses circulating in wild and domestic birds. Genetic material is being exchanged very rapidly among the different viruses. This way novel viruses are emerging, whose potential impact on animal and human health is difficult to predict. Some strains of avian flu, such as H5N1 and H7N9, can be transmitted to humans. The WHO is particularly concerned about the recent rapid increase in human H5N1 cases in Egypt and the continuing incidence of human H7N9 infections in China. Due to strict food safety and veterinary measures, poultry meat and eggs sold in the EU can be considered as safe. Caution is needed, however, when handling infected poultry. At the end of 2014, MEPs posed several written questions to the Commission about H5N8 – the new highly pathogenic strain of the avian flu virus found in Member States – enquiring about the measures taken to prevent a new epidemic and about the EU's readiness to provide funding in the event of outbreaks. Actions in response to the outbreaks in late 2014 included culling infected poultry, as well as monitoring of the situation by the Commission, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Wild birds are natural reservoirs for AI viruses. To better understand how these viruses evolve and spread, experts propose a globally coordinated surveillance system for wild birds.