48 million animals killed: Europe is experiencing the worst bird flu ever

The recent outbreak of bird flu stretches from Svalbard to Portugal.

48 million animals killed: Europe is experiencing the worst bird flu ever

The recent outbreak of bird flu stretches from Svalbard to Portugal. Millions of livestock are being culled and thousands of wild animals are dying from the virus. The EU health authority ECDC warns that an epidemic of this type has never been registered in Europe.

According to data from the EU health authority ECDC, the most recent epidemic of bird flu is the worst such epidemic ever recorded in Europe. According to one report, nearly 2500 outbreaks were detected in poultry farms during the 2021/2022 season. 48 million animals were killed in the attitudes. More than 3,500 outbreaks have been identified in wild birds. For the North Sea alone, the head of the National Reference Laboratory for Avian Influenza at the Friedrich Loeffler Institute, Timm Harder, assumes that tens of thousands of birds have fallen victim to the virus.

The geographical extent of the outbreak is also unique and stretches from Svalbard to Portugal and Ukraine. 37 European countries are affected. Almost 190 cases have been registered in animals kept elsewhere, such as in zoos.

Animal influenza viruses can sporadically infect humans and cause mild to severe illness, according to the ECDC. The viruses have the potential to have a major impact on the health of the population, as examples from the past have shown. "What should alert us is a number of cases in mammals with this very virus," Harder said. Foxes, martens, otters and most recently a black bear have died.

Despite the strong spread and despite bird flu infections in mammals, there has been no transmission to humans in the European Economic Area in recent years. Worldwide there was only a small number without symptoms or with mild courses. Therefore, the risk to the population is low, albeit slightly higher for people occupationally exposed to infected birds.

The EU authority underlined the importance of testing people with respiratory diseases and recent contact with potentially infected animals or unknown origin. It is of utmost importance to detect possible transmissions early.

Harder warned of a whole new quality with regard to bird flu. An infection on the scale of this summer is being observed for the first time, said the expert. Whereas in earlier years the outbreaks were mainly seasonal due to bird migration, they now occur all year round. All of North America is also affected. According to Harder, one could speak of a real pandemic in wild birds.

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