EFSA considers potential vaccination strategies against bird flu

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Creative #:
© GettyImages/Creative #:

Related tags Avian influenza France vaccination

EFSA is currently assessing the availability of vaccines against highly pathogenic avian influenza (AI) in poultry and weighing up vaccination approaches.

The outcome of that work, to which the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the EU reference laboratory (EURL) are also contributing, will be available in the second half of 2023, said the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

There has been a sharp increase in the number of bird flu cases in poultry in Europe since September 2022, according to a report​ by EFSA, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and the EURL, which was released at the end of December.

“The rise in the number of outbreaks in poultry since the summer is suspected to be linked to the spread of the virus via water birds,”​ noted the authors.

They warn that the regions in the EU with high poultry production densities are at particular risk for further outbreaks.

Record-breaking epidemic  

The ongoing HPAI epidemic ​in Europe is the most severe ever.

“In the first year of the epidemic, which ran from October 2021 to September 2022, a total of 2,520 outbreaks in poultry, 227 in captive birds, and 3,867 detections in wild birds were notified in 37 European countries. Some 50 million birds were culled in affected farms," ​reads the report.

The latest data from the three EU agencies shows that between September and December last year, 1,163 virus detections were reported in 27 European countries, including 398 in poultry alone.

The risk of infection is assessed as low for the general population in the EU/EEA, and low to medium for occupationally exposed people, said the authors.

Deteriorating situation in France

Late last month, the French agricultural ministry reported an alarming increase in the number of HPAI cases on farms, particularly in the Pays de La Lorie region, an area with a high density of poultry operations.

This year’s epidemic in that country follows the catastrophic 2021-2022 season when a record 21m birds were culled early, resulting in a sharp decrease in poultry and foie gras output.

France has been testing vaccines in ducks and geese. It hopes to convince other EU member states to have a common approach as poultry producers fear trade restrictions often imposed on meat from vaccinated animals, according to Reuters​.

Related topics Regulation Poultry Europe Safety

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