Finland reports H5N1 avian flu in blue foxes on fur farm

blue fox

NTNU, Per Harald Olsen / Flickr cc

The Finnish Food Authority (FFA) today reported an H5N1 avian flu outbreak in blue foxes at a fur farm in Kausti, located in the west central part of the country. The agency said the virus is the same one that caused recent mass deaths in wild birds.

Also, officials said influenza has been detected at four other fur farms and subtyping tests are still under way. They added that the viruses were found in samples sent by breeders to determine the cause of illness. The source of the virus is still under investigation, but the foxes likely contracted the virus from wild birds.

The farm is the first fur facility in the country to be hit with an H5N1 outbreak. Finland had previously reported H5N1 in two wild foxes.

The FFA said avian flu has been found in large numbers of wild birds this summer and that it is examining samples from several mass deaths of seagulls from different parts of Finland.

In a notification to the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH), Finnish officials said the farm also housed 1,500 raccoon dogs as well as 3,500 foxes. Three fatal infections were reported in the foxes. Officials said several black-headed gulls were seen near the farm. So far, no control measures are in place, because highly pathogenic avian flu isn't a listed disease for fur farms. However, veterinary officials are working closely with public health partners and are encouraging fur farms to step-up their biosecurity and use of personal protective equipment.

According to the Finnish Fur Breeders Association, blue fox are a bluish-gray variant of the Arctic fox and are the most common fur animal farmed in Finland. The fur animals are kept in cages or netted environments, and their feed typically consists of fish and meat byproducts.

Last October, Spain reported an H5N1 outbreak at a mink farm, raising concerns about whether the virus was changing to more easily infect mammals, including humans.

H5N1 outbreak in Polish cats includes major cities

In its latest quarterly report on avian flu today, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) shared the latest details on Poland's investigation in the H5N1 in cats, including that 24 of 46 cats tested were positive for the virus.

The cats are from six different administrative regions, including some of the country's major cities.

The cats had acute respiratory and neurologic symptoms. Some survived, but several died, on average about 5 days after symptoms onset. Nine cats were euthanized.

So far, 17 epidemiologic investigations are under way into the source of the virus. Of the affected cats, 13 were kept indoors. Also, 13 ate raw chicken or offal, but the time of feeding is unknown, and no causal relationship has been determined. So far, official tests on feed samples and trace-back investigations have not been conducted.

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