Influenza A(H5N8) Virus in Europe

We always maintained that the Influenza virus is a very versatile virus. So, when a novel version emerged in South Korea last spring, red flags were raised. Influenza A(H5N8) Virus spread to dozens of poultry farms, resulting in the destruction of more than 13 million birds.

While no human infections were reported, this virus is a close cousin of the lethal Influenza A(H5N1) Virus, which has a long history of occasionally infecting humans, often with tragic results. South Korea did report detecting Influenza A(H5N8) antibodies in dogs.See here.
The infections seemed to be limited to South Korea and some politicians went back to sleep, certain that the problem was resolved.

Then, in November 2014, Germany unexpectedly reported an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian Influenza A(H5N8) Virus in turkeys in North East Germany. Increased mortality was observed in a number of the 31,000 bird on the premises. All these birds were culled.

A few weeks later, authorities in The Netherlands reported an outbreak Influenza A(H5N8) Virus in poultry. All 150,000 hens were culled. And just a few days after that report, British authorities confirmed yet another case of Influenza A(H5N8) Virus in a duck breeding farm in Yorkshire. Then several other sporadic outbreaks were reported in Netherlands.

Autumn is the season for increased wild bird migration, especially waterfowl, as well as seasonal poultry production (read: turkeys reared for Christmas) and therefore it poses an increased risk of incursion of any Influenza virus into the poultry sector through direct and indirect contact with wild birds. No wonder then that German investigations found Influenza A(H5N8) Virus in common teals (Anas crecca) and their Dutch counterparts found the virus in Eurasian wigeons (Anas penelope). Both species migrate from Siberia and pass over Great Britain, The Netherlands and Germany en route to sunny Africa.

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