How to the EU plans to tackle the latest bird flu epidemic

In the last year, Europe has seen the worst outbreak of avian flu on record. The latest report from the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) shows that between October 2021 and September 2022, the number of cases has been unusually high and 50 million birds have been culled in affected areas so far. 

Because of this, the European Commission has announced new rules around vaccination, with the hope that it will control and prevent the spread of the disease. 

Bird flu is a highly contagious viral disease that primarily affects poultry and wild water birds. There are two strains: HPAI and LPAI. The Commission’s new rules would mean a common framework for EU countries so vaccination programs were coordinated. 

The Commission says that tackling outbreaks of influenza is a top priority. According to a recently released statement on the issue, the Commission says: “These outbreaks are causing enormous damage to this agricultural sector and hamper trade.”

It also notes that coordinated EU policies on avian flu vaccination would allow  “safe movements of animals and products from establishments and zones where vaccination has taken place.”

In an interview, a representative for AVEC, which represents the European poultry industry, said that in recent years, it has become harder to control the HPAI strain of bird flu and that vaccination, along with other strategies, will be necessary to control future outbreaks. 

For example, overseeing the effectiveness of vaccination strategies using surveillance programs must be put in place. However, these can be expensive, so it’s important that the costs aren’t placed solely on poultry producers, as this could become a serious trade barrier. 

Roxane Feller from AnimalhealthEurope added: “The animal health industry is ready to contribute to vaccination campaigns if and when the need arises, provided that authorities and governments provide clear guidance with timelines that are compatible with vaccine development and manufacturing.”

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