Bird flu may have reappeared in Europe. After five European nations reported bird flu outbreaks this year, France’s agricultural ministry confirmed today that three swans found dead along a lake which borders Germany, died of bird flu, according to a new story published on bloomberg.com.This suggests that the deadly H5N1 virus is still viable and may be spreading its way across Europe.
In Germany, authorities are testing the remains of another bird found in the province of Thuringia for possible bird flu and have ordered all poultry to be kept confined to their pins until results of the tests can be confirmed.
Both nations are taking precautions with this new evidence that avian flu may have infected local birds. Poultry in the Moselle region of France has been confined and wildlife in the area is under close observation for any signs of bird flu. The Netherlands, in response to this news, instituted a ban on keeping domestic poultry outdoors unless they have been vaccinated in the past year.
“Dead swans are often the first sign of an outbreak: Albert Osterhaus, director of New-Flu Bird, said in a telephone interview. “They are the sentinels of the disease and may indicate more avian infections will follow”. Experts believe the outbreaks this year may have been caused by spread of the virus through infected water birds migrating into the area. They touch down on water leaving infectious material that can affect local birds.
These birds as well as wildlife in the areas affected are being closely watched by officials for evidence of further bird flu transmission. Their primary concern is that the virus could mutate to cause infection that can spread easily from birds to humans. The World Health Organization in Geneva reports the virus has already infected 317 people in 12 countries. The initial case of avian flu affecting Europe was found in Greece with subsequent cases being found in Italy, followed by France, Germany, and other European nations.
Due to an increase in awareness and knowledge of the spread and potential threat of bird flu, the Euopean Union is quick to take precautions such as poultry isolation to help avert the threat of a potential pandemic which could have devastating consequences worldwide. Alex Thiermann, president of the Code Commission, a body that sets standards for animal health, stated, “The measures show an increase in awareness”.
The world will indeed be watching to see how this latest round of avian flu cases plays out.