H5N8 avian flu outbreaks expand to Wales

The quick pace of avian flu developments saw no let-up today, with highly pathogenic H5N8 reported for the first time in Wales and further spread in wild birds and poultry flocks in a handful of already-affected European countries.

In another development, Montenegro's agriculture ministry issued a statement saying that tests on a wild duck found near Skadar Lake were positive for highly pathogenic H5N5. A media report on Dec 20, citing the country's state television, had said tests found H5N8, the strain fueling outbreaks in Montenegro's neighbors and more than a dozen other European countries.

Because of a surge in recent avian flu activity, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) yesterday announced the launch of a new avian influenza portal, designed to provide easier access to information and recommendations and enable experts to follow virus evolution in real time. The portal also has a dedicated page offering tools for communicating with different audiences.

H5N8 in Wales

A statement from the Welsh government said today that tests on a wild duck in Llanelli in Carmarthenshire County, located in the southwest part of the country, were positive for H5N8. The announcement comes less than a week after animal health officials in the United Kingdom announced the first outbreak in England, which affected a turkey farm in the eastern part of the country.

Earlier this month Wales established a prevention zone requiring all poultry to be kept indoors or take steps to isolate them from wild birds. A few days ago the government temporarily suspended poultry gatherings.

Lesley Griffiths, cabinet secretary for environment and rural affairs, said in the statement, "This finding is not unexpected and follows calls for bird keepers to be more vigilant for signs of the disease. It is likely that more cases will be confirmed."

H5N5 in Montenegro

Clarification on the strain involved in Montenegro's recent avian flu finding was noted in a Dec 20 statement in Montenegrin from the country's agriculture ministry. According to a machine translation, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) said the H5N5 strain confirmed in Montenegro has only previously been confirmed in the Netherlands.

On Dec 15 the Netherlands reported H5N5 in a tufted duck found in a wetland area near Werkendam.

Montenegro authorities urged farmers to follow precautions issued earlier this month after H5N8 was detected in Serbia, its northeastern neighbor.

Four European countries report more H5N8

In other developments, Sweden, Finland, and Germany reported more H5N8 detections in wild birds, as France noted that the virus hit five more duck farms, all in Gers department, according to separate reports to the OIE.

Sweden reported three outbreaks, all in Skane County in the far southern part of the country. Taken together, the virus was detected in four wild birds: two buzzards, a white-tailed eagle, and a magpie.

Finland's outbreaks occurred near the towns of Rauma and Sund, both in the southwestern part of the country. Each event involved a single detection in a bird of prey, a white-tailed eagle and an owl.

Germany reported five more outbreaks involving wild birds in five different states: Saxony-Anhalt, Lower Saxony, Baden-Wurttemberg, Hesse, and North Rhine-Westphalia. Among them, H5N8 was found in five birds, including four ducks and a stork.

Meanwhile, the five outbreaks in Gers department, an area in southwestern France that has been hit hard by avian flu outbreaks for a second year in a row, involved flocks totaling more than 16,000 ducks. Bird deaths prompted testing and detection at three of the locations, while the virus was found during enhanced surveillance at the other two.

Among the five farms, the virus killed 561 of 16,340 birds, and the remaining ones were culled to control the spread of the virus.

See also:

Dec 22 Welsh government statement

Dec 21 OIE statement

OIE avian influenza portal

Dec 20 Montenegro agriculture ministry statement

Dec 21 OIE report on H5N8 in Sweden

Dec 21 OIE report on H5N8 in Finland

Dec 21 OIE report on H5N8 in Germany

Dec 21 OIE report on H5N8 in France

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