According to the new ECDC risk assessment, the recent outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza A(H5N8) in poultry holdings in Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom present extremely low risk to the general public. To date, no human infections with this virus have ever been reported worldwide.
On 6 November 2014, German authorities reported an outbreak of A(H5N8) at a holding with 31 000 fattening turkeys in the north-east of Germany. On 16 November 2014, Dutch authorities reported an outbreak of A(H5N8) in a holding with 150 000 laying hens kept indoor located in Hekendorp, north east of Rotterdam. On 16 November 2014, UK authorities reported an outbreak of A(H5N8) in an indoor holding with 6 000 breeding ducks in North Yorkshire, England.
In all three locations, culling of the affected poultry is ongoing or completed, protection and surveillance zones have been established and investigations initiated to analyse how the birds became infected. It remains unclear how this virus was introduced simultaneously into closed indoor holdings in European regions far from one another and different poultry production sectors.
The highly pathogenic avian influenza A(H5N8) virus has been detected among wild birds in Asia where it has caused several outbreaks on commercial poultry farms in South Korea, Japan and China. This is the first time that this avian influenza A(H5N8) has been detected in Europe.
A(H5N8) virus is highly pathogenic and has the ability to cause asymptomatic infections in wild birds. Therefore the ongoing investigations, as well as monitoring and testing of wild birds and domestic poultry in the EU is important to identify the source of infection and prevent further spread of this virus in the EU.
Although no human infections with this virus have ever been reported world-wide to date, given the evolutionary history of the virus, people in direct contact with infected poultry might be at risk of infection, and should therefore be monitored for ten days in order to document possible related symptoms. Antiviral prophylaxis could be considered by the local authorities. Seasonal influenza vaccination should be offered for unvaccinated poultry workers.
Read the Rapid Risk Assessment on Outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza A(H5N8) in Europe