European Commission and the World Health Organization respond
to risk of spread of avian influenza following outbreak in the Netherlands
In the Netherlands, existing restrictive measures adopted by the European
Commission to control the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus
(A/H7N7) have been extended until 12 May. No live poultry, hatching eggs,
or fresh, unprocessed poultry manure or litter may be exported to other
member states or third countries and, with some derogations, no live poultry
and hatching eggs may be transported within the Netherlands. All poultry
in the buffer zones created around infected areas will be culled as soon
as possible. (1)
In Belgium, where three outbreaks have been confirmed, and two suspected
outbreaks are under investigation, the same measures have been adopted by
the Commission as for the Netherlands. In view of the specificity of poultry
production, however, the Belgian veterinary authority may authorise certain
movements of hatching eggs, day-old chicks, ready to lay pullets, and poultry
for immediate slaughter within Belgium. (2)
The Commission has also reached decisions to prescribe the Netherlands
and Belgium to take appropriate precautionary measures regarding the prevention
of influenza infections in poultry workers and other persons at risk, and
to impose a serological survey of pigs kept on poultry farms where an avian
influenza outbreak is notified. Both countries may also decide to apply
vaccination against avian influenza of susceptible birds in zoos (3, 4).
In accordance with its pandemic preparedness plan for influenza, the World
Health Organization (WHO) recommends that in countries where cases of H7N7
are detected, surveillance and diagnosis of the avian H7N7 virus should
be enhanced in humans and susceptible animals (including chickens, turkeys,
and pigs) (5). In addition, countries should initiate specific investigations
to increase understanding of possible transmission patterns.
WHO advises that persons in contact with H7N7 affected poultry flocks
should be on guard for any signs and symptoms of respiratory disease. If
symptoms arise, they should consult a doctor, who will then initiate laboratory
testing and reporting to health officials.
WHO emphasises that these heightened surveillance measures will help in
the timely detection of any further transmission of H7N7 to humans and to
prevent its possible spread.
The WHO Global Influenza Surveillance Network (http://www.who.int/csr/disease/influenza/surveillance/en/)
is currently assembling a test kit for H7N7 that will be ready for use in
three weeks. As a precautionary measure, the network is also working on
the development of a vaccine for H7N7.
A factsheet on avian influenza, a chronology of the main events of this
outbreak, and an information note from DG SANCO are available at http://europa.eu.int/comm/food/fs/ah_pcad/ah_pcad_index_en.html.