In parallel with the resumption of the covid-19 epidemic, France is monitoring the return of avian flu after the spotting this weekend of a new outbreak in a poultry farm in the Nord department.
This is the first breeding outbreak identified since the epizootic last winter, the Ministry of Agriculture announced on Saturday.
This disease constitutes "a threat" to economic stability, food security and the subsistence of many populations, warned the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
Abnormal mortality in poultry
“While avian influenza viruses are actively circulating in Europe through migratory birds, France detected on November 26 an outbreak due to a highly pathogenic strain in a laying hen farm located in the town of Warhem, in the Department of the North, ”said the Ministry of Agriculture in a press release.
The suspicion of infection follows a finding of abnormal mortalities among poultry on the farm.
At the beginning of November, three contaminated backyards had been identified in the departments of Ardennes and Aisne, raising the level of risk to "high" throughout the territory and forcing breeders in nearly 6,000 municipalities to confine their poultry.
Read also Avian influenza: 5 minutes to understand why farmers will confine their poultry
40 countries affected since May
Since May, outbreaks of avian influenza have also been detected in nearly 40 countries in Europe, Africa and Asia, according to the OIE, an almost century-old intergovernmental organization based in Paris.
On the Old Continent, 130 cases or outbreaks have been detected in wildlife or in farms since the beginning of August.
An increase in finds of dead wild birds in the north of the Netherlands and of infected wild birds in Germany has also been reported as six outbreaks were detected in broiler turkey farms in the Verona region of Italy. , since October 19.
In a press release dated 19 November, the OIE calls on countries to "intensify their surveillance efforts" in this "high risk period, from October to April".
A peak in February?
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is a disease "very contagious, which affects several species of poultry as well as domestic and wild birds, and, occasionally, humans", recalls the OIE.
It is seasonal in nature, with most outbreaks occurring during the winter in the northern hemisphere.
Outbreaks typically begin to increase in October, peak in February, and continue through April.
In recent years, many subtypes of avian influenza viruses, another name for the disease, have been circulating in various populations of birds over a wide geographic area.
In 2021, unprecedented genetic variability of avian influenza virus subtypes was reported in birds, "creating a difficult situation from an epidemiological point of view", underlines the OIE.
Nearly 16,000 cases of avian influenza in domestic and wild birds have already been reported this year in October, "which suggests an increased risk of circulation of the virus", worries the organization.
Careful inventory of fireplaces
Due to the consequences of the disease "on the subsistence of poultry farmers and on international trade as well as the risks of transmission to humans", the animal health sector must implement "strict biosecurity measures in farms, in trade and in the markets of live birds in order to prevent its spread, ”he insisted.
Thus since November 15 and until March 15, French poultry are no longer completely raised in the open air, in order to limit contact with wild animals from outside and vaccination will be made compulsory in zoos for them. birds that cannot be confined or put under nets.
The Paris-based organization is also calling on affected countries to "ensure that outbreaks are notified in a timely manner in order to stem the spread of the disease."
Contagious to humans?
The main risk of this epizootic remains the culling of thousands of birds as on a poultry farm in the central province of Flevoland, where around 36,000 birds were recently culled on the farm to prevent the spread of the virus.
This leads to great financial losses.
The threat to humans is
However, a person can be infected by close contact with infected birds.
To date, "some recent human cases have been associated with the currently circulating H5N6 subtype" in Asia, says the OIE.
On the other hand, "nothing indicates that the consumption of poultry or eggs suitable for human consumption could transmit this virus to humans", specifies the organization on its site.