Bird flu spreading among migrating wild birds

Storks migrating.
Storks migrating. Source: Roos

Due to the migration of birds, the regions of eastern and northern Europe may be at a higher risk of bird flu during the fall-winter season, and the virus is spreading among resident wild birds in Estonia.

Olev Kalda, head of the department for animal health and animal welfare at the Agriculture and Food Board, said that bird flu is very widespread in Europe. "In recent weeks, more than 1.5 million poultry have been infected and killed due to the highly contagious bird flu virus strain H5N1. Some 700,000 birds had to be killed in Poland," Kalda said.

According to an overview by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the bird flu virus was detected during the summer months and in September, mainly in the local population of wild birds in northern Europe. This suggests that, compared to previous years, the disease is spreading not only through migratory birds but also through native wild birds. "Today, the virus is still circulating in poultry and wild birds and the epidemic is not over yet," Kalda said.

Since the beginning of October, the highly pathogenic bird flu virus has been found in the Eurasian eagle-owl in Hiiumaa, the northern goshawk in Viljandi County and Parnu County and the white-tailed eagle in West-Viru County. The disease has also been diagnosed in the greater white-fronted goose and swan.

"Infection of local birds of prey across Estonia indicates that the environment is contaminated with the virus and that it is widespread. Thus, it is not only the migration of birds that is a threat, but today bird flu is permanently widespread in Estonia and namely in our local wild bird population," Kalda said.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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