Around 5,300 detections of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus, also known as bird flu, were reported in poultry, captive and wild birds in 36 EU/EEA countries and the UK during the 2021-2022 epidemic season.

That is according to European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) latest overview of HPAI, which shows that this is the largest number of HPAI cases for an epidemic season ever reported.

The persistence of the ‘bird flu’ virus in wild birds indicates that it may have become endemic in wild bird populations in Europe.

Bird flu

A total of 2,398 outbreaks in domestic poultry led to the culling of 46 million birds in affected establishments.

More than half of poultry outbreaks in Europe were due to secondary spread, from infected poultry to other poultry farms.

In addition, 168 outbreaks were detected in captive birds, and there were 2,733 HPAI detections in wild birds in 36 European countries. The current 2021-2022 HPAI epidemic season is still ongoing, with cases in poultry and wild birds reported up to June 2022.

For the first time, Iceland reported detections of HPAI virus in its territory (in wild birds and in poultry); the first case was confirmed in April 2022 in a white-tailed eagle found dead in October 2021 – the virus identified was closely related to the HPAI A(H5N1) viruses that have been detected in North America since December 2021.

Considering outbreaks in poultry, France is by far the most affected country in the March 2022 – June 2022 reporting period and epidemic season, with 509 and 1,371 outbreaks respectively.

More than 6.5 million birds having been culled in the affected establishments in this reporting period.

France is followed by Hungary (171 outbreaks and almost three million birds culled), and Bulgaria (15 outbreaks and almost one million birds culled).

During this reporting period, 86% of the poultry outbreaks – up to 93% in France and Hungary – were secondary due to between-farm spread of HPAI virus.