The cases between 2022 and 2023
The viruses ofbird flu pathogens (HPAI) have caused an increase in cases in wild birds, especially gulls, in the EU and sporadic but continuous infections in mammals. The number of outbreaks in poultry between December 2022 and March 2023 in the EU has decreased since the peak reached in November 2022. Abnormal mass mortality in gulls has been observed in countries such as France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy. The risk of infection in poultry could increase in the coming months as gulls move inland, potentially reaching poultry production areas. Effective prevention strategies should be implemented in these areas.
Surveillance of susceptible mammals
Mutations associated with mammalian genetic adaptation have been detected in some of the viruses circulating in both mammals and birds. Furthermore, recent mass mortality events in mammals such as sea lions suggest potential mammalian-to-mammal transmission of the HPAI virus. In this context, EFSA and EURL scientists recommend extending and strengthening surveillance in wild and farmed mammals, especially mink and pigs, in risk areas where HPAI is present.
Low risk for the general population
Although sporadic avian influenza infections in humans, which can cause serious illness and have fatal outcomes, have been reported, human infections remain a rare occurrence. Most of the serious human infections recently reported from countries outside the EU have been related to unprotected exposure to sick and dead poultry, particularly on family or rural farms. Circulating viruses bind preferentially to avian-like receptors found in birds and not to human-like receptors, and are susceptible to antivirals. The risk to the general population in Europe is assessed as low, and low to moderate for workers and other people in contact with potentially infected and dead birds and mammals. ECDC, EFSA and EURL recommend the appropriate use of personal protective equipment in case of contact with birds. People exposed to infected birds or mammals should undergo diagnostic tests and subsequent monitoring, in order to promptly identify potential cases of transmission (source: Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie).
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