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Home Eurosurveillance Weekly Release  2003: Volume 7/ Issue 18 Article 2
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Eurosurveillance, Volume 7, Issue 18, 01 May 2003

Citation style for this article: European Commission and World Health Organization respond to risk of spread of avian influenza following outbreak in the Netherlands and Belgium. Euro Surveill. 2003;7(18):pii=2218. Available online:

European Commission and the World Health Organization respond to risk of spread of avian influenza following outbreak in the Netherlands and Belgium

Editorial team (, Eurosurveillance editorial office.

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 ( 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

References :

  1. European Commission. Update on avian influenza in the Netherlands and Belgium. Press release IP/03/564, 23 April 2003. (

  2. European Commission. Avian influenza in Belgium: Commission adopts control measures. Press release IP03/552, 16 April 2003. (

  3. Decision No 2003/258/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 10 April 2003. Concerning protective measures in relation to avian influenza in the Netherlands. Official Journal of the European Union 2003; L95/65, 11.04.2003. (

  4. Decision No 2003/275/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 April 2003. Concerning protection measures in relation to a strong suspicion of avian influenza in Belgium. Official Journal of the European Union 2003; L99/57, 17.04.2003. (

  5. World Health Organization, Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response. Disease outbreak reported: Avian influenza in the Netherlands. 24 April 2003. (

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