December 23, 2016
'Biosecurity measures key to protecting poultry farms from bird flu'
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has advised poultry farms in the EU to strictly enforce high levels of biosecurity measures, saying it is the most effective way to prevent the introduction of the highly pathogenic influenza virus A (H5N8) into poultry farms.
EFSA experts have identified and ranked a set of biosecurity measures that can be implemented in different areas of a farm that are classified as high- or low-risk—such as, respectively, a poultry house or places where feed is stored. These measures include preventing contact between wild birds and poultry, indoor housing of birds, and keeping geese and ducks separate from other poultry.
EFSA recommended the development of biosecurity guidance tailored to the needs of individual farms, preferably before an outbreak.
H5N8 is currently causing an epizootic in Europe, infecting many poultry farms as well as captive and wild bird species in at least 10 countries, EFSA said in a statement issued on Dec. 14.
It said it had been asked by the European Commission to deliver urgent scientific advice on the effectiveness of protective measures currently in place to prevent further spread of the H5N8 virus. The EC request followed the outbreaks of the virus reported among wild birds and poultry across Europe since the end of October 2016.
EFSA said in its statement, among others, that:
-- When affected wilds birds are detected, monitoring of poultry should be applied to a geographical area defined by the habitat and flight distance of the affected birds. Competent authorities should also raise farmers' awareness of biosecurity measures in such areas.
-- Passive surveillance—reports of dead birds-is the most effective way of detecting the virus in wild birds and poultry.
-- Testing samples from species of wild birds previously not known to be affected by the virus and from areas where the virus has not yet been reported is useful to determine the geographical spread of the virus in wild birds.
According to EFSA, a total of 163 poultry farms have been found to be infected by the H5N8 virus as of Dec. 11. The first confirmed case on Nov. 3 was a turkey holding in Hungary. Infected farms were also reported in Austria, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, France, Croatia, Switzerland and Poland.