Between 2021 and 2022 there was the largest contamination of bird flu ever seen in Europe

Environment - October 18, 2022

47 million birds killed in farms

According to Efsa (European Food Safety Authority), in the last 2 years Europe has suffered the largest epidemy of avian flu ever recorded with numbers that see 2500 outbreaks, more than 47 million birds killed on farms with even 3500 cases in wild birds, in an extremely wide territorial space, which goes from Norway to Portugal, crossing the whole old continent.

While, as a rule, in the summer period there has always been a lowering of the incidence of animal’s flu, in the last year, especially in the summer, the virus that affects all birds in general, has become more aggressive and has caused the death of more animals than ever before, especially in France, the Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom.

The epidemic is to be considered still ongoing, despite a decrease in the cases but with infections number that in any case exceed 5 times those of the previous year. The beginning of the autumn birds migration will inevitably worsen the situation and the great variety of birds that usually winter in Europe will face a high probability of contagion precisely because of the persistence of the virus.

The risk of transmission of the virus from bird to man is considered, by the agencies, to be relatively low but it remains plausible and on average probable for those who are in daily contact with birds for work. According to the main health and food control agencies in the world, it remains necessary for doctors, health experts and laboratory operators to monitor the possible spread of animal viruses in order to maintain a coordinated strategy and carry out the necessary risk assessments for the human being.

In the autumn of 2021, for the first time, the avian flu virus crossed the Atlantic Ocean, hitting the American coasts as far as the hinterland, but with health repercussions that are currently controllable. However, according to EFSA, medium and long-term prevention strategies will be taken into consideration. The flu viruses that periodically circulate in various animal species, especially those typically raised by human as birds and pigs, could, in fact, also infect humans and degenerate, fortunately only in very rare cases, into fatal diseases.

In recent decades, the world has managed viruses such as avian H5N1 in Egypt, H7N9 in China and the flu widespread in pig farms in 2009 which then passed to humans without particularly serious globally consequences but which, as dutiful is, deserves the interest from international health agencies.

Italy is currently the second country in Europe in terms of number of outbreaks, after France, with 317 farms affected. The operators of the sector are however invited to carry out all the necessary checks to prevent an even greater spread of the virus in question. Employers in the poultry farming sector will have to periodically review their guidelines on the assessment of infectious risk and will have to undertake maintenance works, organizational strategies and sanitary measures to prevent employee infection. Among the precautions required, is recommended the use of superior ventilation in rooms where birds eventually are, separation of work clothes from personal ones to avoid contamination and a complete sanitation cleaning of each worker’s accommodation, in case they stop nearby of the workplace even during the night.

The Covid experience has allowed an evaluation of the precautionary measures necessary to avoid infections, even more careful and a willingness on the part of the bodies responsible not to underestimate any signal that may foreshadow the beginning of an epidemic. Hygiene and working methods in certain environments will be increasingly greater in order to avoid the uncontrolled growth of the spread of potentially dangerous diseases for humans.