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Avian influenza, frequently asked questions

Avian influenza is a highly contagious viral animal disease. It affects birds in which it can cause, in its highly pathogenic form, episodes of mortality of up to 100% of the flock and periods of significant production declines.

Avian influenza is a pathology against which health authorities and professionals must implement immediate control measures with a view to its eradication. Any suspicion or appearance of suggestive clinical signs must be declared to the veterinary services of the department (Prefecture)

More informations :

What are the clinical signs of the disease?

The symptoms are mainly respiratory, digestive or nervous, or simply a loss of appetite. During previous epizootics, the serious forms resulted in a significant impairment of the general condition of the birds leading to the rapid death of all the birds.

What species are concerned?

These viruses are transmissible to all species of birds, domestic or wild.

Which migratory birds can transmit avian flu?

All birds are susceptible to avian influenza, but surveillance of wild birds focuses above all on families of particular interest, including anatidae (geese, swans, ducks, etc.), rallides (coots, etc.). .), gulls (gulls, terns, etc.), but also raptors and waders.

How does the virus circulate?

The disease can be spread between farms and backyards through:

  • direct contact between birds, domestic and wild;
  • indirect contacts through:
    • cars ;
    • equipment ;
    • people ;
    • droppings, slurry;
    • livestock residues.

Direct contact between domestic and wild birds can occur especially along the migration corridors of wild birds or during the hunting campaign. Animal transport, including international trade, can also ensure the direct or indirect spread of the disease.

What are the levels of epizootic risk that exist vis-à-vis wildlife?

The level of risk is defined according to the criteria set by the ministerial decree of March 16, 2016. It also defines territories at particular risk according to the wetlands frequented by migratory birds. Three levels are planned:

  • negligible;
  • moderate, reinforced biosecurity measures are imposed on farms in areas at particular risk;
  • high, the reinforced biosecurity measures apply throughout the country.

How is the level of risk defined?

The level of epizootic risk of highly pathogenic AI is defined by interministerial decree (AM of March 16, 2016) joint of the minister in charge of agriculture and the minister of ecological transition, according to the following criteria:

  • the number of HPAI cases in wild birds and their distribution in time and space;
  • the grouping of cases, in particular within the national territory and in the migratory corridors of wild birds arriving or transiting in France;
  • the distance of the national territory from cases in neighboring countries.

Is there a vaccine?

Influenza viruses are very numerous and changeable. A vaccine has a marketing authorization but only for birds of the gallinaceae family (gallus gallus). To date, no vaccine suitable for birds of the family Anatidae (palmipeds) has been authorized by the European Commission. Moreover, the vaccine mentioned does not fully protect against the group of strains currently circulating.

What measures should be taken for commercial farms?

Poultry from commercial farms must be sheltered in accordance with the AM of September 29, 2021 when reinforced biosecurity measures are imposed by the level of epizootic influenza risk. Technical instruction DGAL/SDSBEA/2021-865 specifies the terms.

To find out more about the measures to be put in place.

What measures should be taken for non-commercial farms?

Birds from non-commercial farms, including backyards, must be confined or put under netting when the level of epizootic influenza risk so requires.

To find out more about the measures to be put in place.

What are the measures to be taken by holders of game birds or decoys in the event of a high epizootic risk?

For game birds, when the level of risk is “high” either in the place of origin of the game or in the place of release in kind, the transport and release in kind of game birds are authorized under the following conditions on all the territories concerned and only for the galliformes.

  • the movement must be declared to the prefect;
  • the evaluation of the biosafety control plan led to a favorable result dating back less than a year.
  • a clinical visit to the birds on the farm by the health veterinarian. This must be renewed every 30 days before the entry into application of the obligation to conduct the assessment, mentioned above.

For game birds of the family Anatidae (palmipeds), a screening for avian influenza virus with negative results for birds, dating back less than 15 days must be sent to the prefect with the declaration of movements which must take place before this one.

To find out more about the measures to be put in place.

What are the mandatory preventive measures to be put in place, when the territory passes through a “high” risk?

  • appropriate sheltering of poultry from commercial farms and confinement or netting of barnyards;
  • prohibition of the organization of gatherings and the participation of poultry originating from the territories concerned;
  • reinforced conditions for the transport, the introduction into the natural environment of game birds and the use of decoys;
  • ban on racing pigeon competitions departing from or arriving in France until March 31;
  • Mandatory vaccination in zoos for birds that cannot be confined or protected under netting.

These measures are accompanied by daily clinical monitoring in all farms (commercial and non-commercial). Their purpose is to protect domestic poultry from potential contamination.

Is the installation of nets, as part of the implementation of biosecurity measures, the responsibility of the breeder, or can the State grant financial aid?

Each breeder is responsible for the health of his animals and therefore for the application of biosecurity measures (AM September 29, 2021), whether in times of negligible or moderate/high risk.

As part of the recovery plan, 100 million euros are dedicated to improving the biosecurity conditions of poultry farms and other species. Investments for laying nets are eligible.

Are there exemptions to the confinement of poultry for small farms?

The ministerial decree of September 29, 2021 relating to the biosecurity measures applicable by operators and professionals related to animals in establishments keeping poultry or captive birds in the context of the prevention of animal diseases transmissible to animals or humans provides the obligation to shelter for all commercial establishments, including small farms. The previous derogation system has been repealed in favor of sheltering adapted to species, ages and production methods. For gallinaceans, authorizations to go out on the course are planned and supervised when animal welfare problems appear.

What happens to organic or label farms, which have in their specifications the fact that the animals must grow up outside?

The methods of sheltering have been adapted to take production conditions into account, particularly for open-air farms. These adaptations aim to ensure a high level of protection against the risk of introducing the virus into farms.

In addition, the specifications of the labels and other quality signs are temporarily modified as necessary to allow the maintenance of the signs and labels without loss for the farmers.

What measures should be taken on your farm or barnyard in the event of a suspected outbreak?

In the case of a abnormal mortality, a drop in production or the appearance of abnormal symptomskeep the corpses by isolating and protecting them and contact your veterinarian or the departmental directorate in charge of population protection (Prefecture) as soon as possible.
Which will lead to:

  • placing the farm or barnyard under surveillance;
  • taking samples for analysis (at no cost to the owner);
  • carrying out an epidemiological investigation.

What measures are planned in the event of confirmation of an outbreak on your farm or barnyard?

The Departmental Directorate in charge of the protection of populations will put in place:

  • on-site killing of all birds and destruction of dead bodies and farm or barnyard products,
  • Cleaning and disinfection of the farm or barnyard followed by a crawl space of 21 days,
  • A protection zone (3 km around the outbreaks) and a surveillance zone (10 km around the outbreaks) are defined with movement restrictions and monitoring of other farms;
  • An epidemiological investigation to identify possible links with other establishments.

Are these animal slaughters covered by the health authorities?

Yes, the slaughter of animals from an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza is covered by the administration.

What are the deadlines for lifting the protection zones?

The protection zone – which is set up within a radius of 3 km around the identified outbreak – can be lifted 21 days after:

  • The depopulation of the outbreak followed by a preliminary disinfection of the site including the decontamination of buildings, materials and surfaces;
  • Monitoring by a veterinarian of all identified poultry farms in the area whether commercial or non-commercial.

What are the deadlines for lifting the surveillance zones?

The surveillance zone – which is set up within a radius of 10 km around the identified outbreak – can be lifted from 9 days after:

  • The lifting of the protection zone,
  • Surveillance by a veterinarian of poultry holdings, according to a sampling plan.

What measures should be taken during a hunt?

In the case of abnormal mortality of wild birds, contact the Departmental Federation of Hunters or the French Office for Biodiversity (departmental service).

Depending on the level of epizootic influenza risk, gatherings of birds (competitions, exhibitions, etc.) may also be subject to restrictions.

Has France experienced other episodes of avian influenza in recent years?

Yes, since 2006, France (and Europe) has experienced several more or less significant episodes of avian influenza.

2006 : H5N1 virus in Ain; 2007 : H5N1 in Moselle

2015-2016 : the South-West is affected (H5N1). A crawl space is set up.

2016-2017 : episode that lasted several months, until May 2017 (H5N8). The Southwest is strongly affected.

2020-2021 : the episode (H5N8) begins in autumn and continues until spring. Despite preventive depopulation, the epidemic is spreading, affecting a total of 15 departments, mainly in the Southwest.

France became free again in September 2021 but, the first outbreak in breeding confirmed on November 26 in the Nord department, led to the loss of this status.

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