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Suspicion of Avian Influenza in Romania and Turkey

Information on suspicion of Avian Influenza in Romania and Turkey

1) Situation in Romania

In the evening of Friday 7 October, the Commission services were informed of a suspicion of Avian Influenza (AI) in Romania. The suspicion has arisen in a backyard flock with 53 chickens/hens and 47 ducks located in the municipality of Ceamurlia-de-Jos in the Danube Delta region, at a distance of ~ 100 Km from the border with Bulgaria). In this flock 40 ducks and 1 chicken have died, while the other poultry (mainly chickens/hens) had no clinical signs of disease. All other poultry in the farm have already been killed and carcasses destroyed. Samples have been taken from 3 ducks and 2 chickens.

The ducks blood samples have resulted positive for antibodies against AI virus, while the 2 chicken samples were negative. These findings alone do not lead to the confirmation of Avian Influenza virus infection (including Highly Pathogenic AI virus H5N1, that is the virus strain circulating in Asia), in particular because the finding of antibodies in ducks cannot be considered as a rare event and could be due to prior infection with Low Pathogenic AI, while ducks death could be due to diseases other than AI.

Samples from the dead ducks are also being tested for the detection of Avian Influenza virus (virus isolation test on embryonated eggs - Highly Pathogenic AI should kill the chicken embryos in 3-4 days) at the Romanian laboratory. After 4 days, as at Sunday 9 October, this test has not given any positive result so far, however, a “second passage” in eggs is now being performed.

In relation to these findings, the Romanian authorities have undertaken strong actions, including the stamping-out of all poultry in the farm in which the ducks died and in several other backyard/family type farms in the surrounding, rigorous controls at the border of the “restricted zone” established around the suspected farm, disinfection, etc. Samples from some poultry and dead wild swans have been taken on Saturday in the village concerned and its surroundings and have been sent to the laboratory in Bucharest for testing.

During the week-end the Romanian veterinary authorities have remained in close contact with the European Commission’s services, and asked for technical support and laboratory reagents.

A Community expert team made of:

• Jorgen Westergaard, former highly experienced Commission official (Deputy HoU in SANCO E2),

• Ruth Manvell, from the Community Reference Laboratory for AI, Weybridge, UK;

• Guus Koch, from the National Reference Laboratory for AI in the NL,

are arriving in Bucharest today 10 October, bringing all necessary laboratory reagents requested by Romania.

It is expected that by Wednesday 12 October the ongoing laboratory tests should confirm or exclude with a high degree of certainty the occurrence of AI; further tests indicating if the virus is Highly Pathogenic or not and for the final characterisation of the virus type would take two days more.

The European Commission will review the situation once these test results are received and will act immediately in accordance with the results.

2) Situation in Turkey

On Sunday 9 October the European Commission’s services have been informed of an outbreak of AI in an open-air turkey farm with 1800 turkeys, 1700 of which died after that the first clinical signs were detected on 1 October. All remaining birds in the farm have been killed and all carcasses destroyed. Disinfection has been applied. The origin of the outbreak is unknown. The farm is located in the Region of Balikesir, in the north-western part of Anatolia.

Laboratory tests (HI, ELISA and virus isolation on embryonated eggs) have resulted positive for the avian influenza virus but the exact strain is not yet known, nor is it known if the strain is of high or low pathogenic avian influenza.

The European Commission’s services and the Community Reference Laboratory for Avian Influenza have immediately offered assistance and laboratory support to the Turkish veterinary authorities. The Turkish will probably sent appropriate samples to the CRL, Weybridge, probably today 10 October. Final virus characterisation will be available within 24/48 hours from arrival of samples in the laboratory.

In view of the positive results of the first laboratory tests for the isolation of avian influenza virus, the European Commission will today adopt a decision by emergency procedure to ban all imports of live birds and feathers from Turkey. Imports from Turkey of all other poultry products, with the exception of heat treated meat which kills the AI virus, are already banned.

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