Avian influenza overview October 2016–August 2017
The A(H5N8) highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) epidemic occurred in 29 European countries in 2016/2017 and has been the largest ever recorded in the EU in terms of number of poultry outbreaks, geographical extent and number of dead wild birds. Multiple primary incursions temporally related with all major poultry sectors affected but secondary spread was most commonly associated with domestic waterfowl species. A massive effort of all the affected EU Member States (MSs) allowed a descriptive epidemiological overview of the cases in poultry, captive birds and wild birds, providing also information on measures applied at the individual MS level. Data on poultry population structure are required to facilitate data and risk factor analysis, hence to strengthen science-based advice to risk managers. It is suggested to promote common understanding and application of definitions related to control activities and their reporting across MSs. Despite a large number of human exposures to infected poultry occurred during the ongoing outbreaks, no transmission to humans has been identified. Monitoring the avian influenza (AI) situation in other continents indicated a potential risk of long-distance spread of HPAI virus (HPAIV) A(H5N6) from Asia to wintering grounds towards Western Europe, similarly to what happened with HPAIV A(H5N8) and HPAIV A(H5N1) in previous years. Furthermore, the HPAI situation in Africa with A(H5N8) and A(H5N1) is rapidly evolving. Strengthening collaborations at National, EU and Global levels would allow close monitoring of the AI situation, ultimately helping to increase preparedness. No human case was reported in the EU due to AIVs subtypes A(H5N1), A(H5N6), A(H7N9) and A(H9N2). Direct transmission of these viruses to humans has only been reported in areas, mainly in Asia and Egypt, with a substantial involvement of wild bird and/or poultry populations. It is suggested to improve the collection and reporting of exposure events of people to AI.