Bird flu does not go away in summer: 'The outlook for winter is not good' |  Currently

Bird flu does not go away in summer: ‘The outlook for winter is not good’ | Currently

Bird flu usually peaks in the winter and then disappears again in the summer. It’s different this year: bird flu circulated frequently in birds throughout the summer and millions of chickens had to be culled. Experts are holding their breath for the coming winter.

Avian influenza usually appeared in the fall with migratory birds that spent the winter in the Netherlands. Through their droppings, among other things, they ended up in chicken coops and chickens became infected.

For years, chicken houses sometimes had to be cleaned in the fall and winter. Since the spring the number of bird flu cases has decreased and in the summer bird flu has disappeared from our country. There were also winters when bird flu hardly reached the poultry sector.

This year is a turning point. The virus has passed from waterfowl that spend the winter here to birds that also stay here in summer, such as the Sandwich tern. As a result, bird flu has not gone away.

This week 200,000 head of cattle were culled on a poultry farm in Drenthe. At the beginning of September, more than two hundred companies were banned from transportation because of an infected poultry farm in Barnefield.

Avian influenza is still present all year round

“The winter outlook is not good,” says Nancy Berens, an avian influenza expert at Wageningen University & Research (WUR). “In October, winter guests come this way and they are almost waterfowl.”

“The virus spreads particularly well on water. The upward trend in recent months is likely to continue. It will be present throughout the year.”

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Only in May was the number of bird flu cases low this year. In June, July and August, the number of outbreaks in the poultry sector increased again. “The situation is now very extreme, and the situation is no longer tenable,” concluded poultry epidemiologist and veterinarian Francesca Vilkers.

Avian influenza is also spreading rapidly in other European countries. According to Berens, this is the “largest spread ever in Europe”.

Waterfowl are important contributors to the spread of avian influenza.


Waterfowl are important contributors to the spread of avian influenza.

Waterfowl are important contributors to the spread of avian influenza.

picture: AP

Vaccine Research

So the European Union is actively looking for a solution. It could be a vaccine. Wageningen Bioveterinary Research (WBVR) is investigating three potential vaccines.

If the vaccine proves suitable, agreements in the European Union will have to be amended. Currently, trade in vaccinated poultry is not permitted, says Berens.

“But many member states are open to reviewing this. In Italy vaccines are being tested on turkeys, in France on ducks and here on chickens,” she continued.

The first results of the studies are expected at the end of December. If the vaccine is suitable, chickens cannot receive an injection right away. “This season (the fall and winter months, editor) this won’t work anymore and I doubt it will work next season,” says Berens.

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