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The HPAI/H5N8 virus was brought into Europe by wild, migrating birds. Observations show that it is highly virulent towards both poultry and numerous species of wild birds. The HPAI virus, H5N8 sub-type currently occurs in wild birds in Europe, in at least 23 countries: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Germany, Hungary, Montenegro, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and United Kingdom. Almost all cases of the HPAI/H5N8 virus were identified in birds living in water-based habitats. The virus was found in wild birds in Europe in 450 locations.

     Also, the highly virulent H5N5 sub-type of the avian flu virus was identified in wild birds in 6 countries: Netherlands, Germany, Croatia, Montenegro, Italy and Poland.

HPAI/H5N8 presence in poultry was confirmed in 19 countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, FYR Macedonia, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom. There were a total of over 500 outbreak spots identified in Europe (over 220 in Hungary, over 120 in France and 93 in Poland).

     The first cases of H5N8 were found in Poland in farm poultry and in poultry of individual farmers (geese, ducks, turkeys, chicken) in November 2016. Currently, 45 outbreak spots of HPAI/H5N8 were identified in poultry and viral infections were found in wild birds in 46 locations. In Lower Silesia, infections with HPAI/H5N5 were found in two locations, in mute swans.

    Poultry is infected via direct contact with wild birds, but most often the infection is indirect, by the poultry using water basins or areas in which excrements of wild birds are found. Humans play a very important role in infection spreading between poultry farms, as the virus is easily carried on clothes, equipment, means of transportation. Straw containing excrements of wild birds and used as a litter in buildings where poultry is kept may be an important source of infections.

    Until now, no cases of human HPAI/H5N8 infections have been identified.

    In Poland, the first outbreak spot of the HPAI/H5N8 in geese was identified on 3rd December 2016 in a small farm in Deszczno municipality, in a herd of 600 birds. On 27th January 2017, the second outbreak spot of avian flu was found in Paproć Village, Nowy Tomyśl municipality in Greater Poland at a geese breeding farm, where 2,377 birds were kept on the day. All geese and laid breeding eggs were destroyed. The excrements were removed and the entire farm was disinfected.

   The third outbreak spot of avian flu in geese occurred on 8th February 2017 in Ozorowice in Lower Silesia, Trzebnica County, in a breeding herd of over 22 thousand birds.

All geese and poultry farmers should observe the recommendations of the RESOLUTION OF THE MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT of 20th December 2016 on the implementation of measures related to the occurrence of highly virulent avian flu in order to protect their herds. Observance of bioprotection rules at poultry farms is to be or not to be for the farmers in the context of prevention of highly virulent avian flu.

    2017 will be a unique and a very difficult year, as breeding geese have remained indoors at the farms already since December 2016. They are not allowed outdoors. Geese fight between one another indoors, and multiple injuries occur at the farms. The farmers complain about the breeding rate, which has dropped by several percent. In addition, lower numbers of laid eggs compared to the usual numbers have been observed. It may be forecast that the numbers of eggs, hatchlings and thus of the slaughtered geese will be at least by a several percent smaller than in 2016

   POLISH ASSOCIATION OF GEESE FARMERS AND MANUFACTURERS has appealed to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development for the bioprevention rules for geese farmers to be relaxed.

 The Minister has formed a Task Group for the occurrence of the highly virulent avian flu HPAI/H5N8. The group includes: Minister, Undersecretary of the State, Chief Veterinary Office, the director of the National Veterinary Institute - National Research Institute in Puławy, as well as advisers and four geese farmers. The first meeting took place on 9th February 2017, where the expectations of the farmers were specified, aimed at providing proper care for Polish geese. They were listened carefully and each suggestion was discussed. The next date for negotiations is 14th February 2017 and let us hope that an agreement will be reached for the good of the geese and of the farmers. The new rules of temporary and minimum bioprevention will become effective very soon.

    Let us be positive.

                     Marek Semberecki - PZHiPG negotiation representative

                           Geese Breeding Farm