More virulent avian flu strain propagating in Estonia, other countries

Avian flu affects and infects wild birds and domesticated birds alike.
Avian flu affects and infects wild birds and domesticated birds alike. Source: ERR

A highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of avian influenza, one which can be transmitted to other animals and birds, has been detected in Estonia, the Agricultural and Food Board (VTA) has announced.

Avian flu outbreaks had already been reported earlier in the year, but strictly affected and infected birds, wild and domestic.

The spring spread of the virus has not slowed down with the end of the spring nesting season, and outbreaks are also present in neighboring countries, particularly the highly pathogenic H5N8 and H5N1 strains, which have been detected in foxes in Holland and seals in the U.K. and Sweden.

"The latter strain was detected in May, in two sea eagle chicks found in Matsalu, and in birds, found dead in Pärnu County, Lääne and Ida-Viru counties last week," VTA spokesperson Hele-Mai Sammel said.

According to a review by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), whereas in previous seasons significant avian flu death rates in wild birds petered out by June, they are still being found this year.

"The transmission of the virus to mammals is certainly worrying because it indicates that the virus is mutating and is spreading and adapting better. The VTA is to test foxes hunted or found dead for avian influenza, to get an idea of whether the virus is also being transmitted to mammals in Estonia," Sammel added.

The ECDC assesses the risk of infection of humans in Europe to be very low, even in the case of those whose work brings them into contact with birds, for instance poultry farmers.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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