news item | 10-2022 | 08:00
Avian influenza now spreads year-round among wild and domestic birds in the Netherlands. From October 2021 until today, there have been 98 outbreaks at sites with more than 50 birds across the country. Contrary to the above, companies were also hit in the summer. For example, in this year of bird flu, the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority has already removed more than 5.8 million birds culled at infected sites, of which more than a million were prophylactically.
On the NVWA podcast ‘The Inspector’ (can be listened to via Apple and Spotify podcasts), Senior Supervising Veterinarian Leon Labut shares his experiences with bird flu and decontamination activities from practice. In the Netherlands – after the epidemic in 2003 with 255 infected sites and over 30 million animals culled – many poultry farms and hobby sites in the Netherlands became infected. The virus also causes many casualties in nature. “This situation is unsustainable. `Not for the sake of the animals, not for the poultry farmers, not for the community,’” says Beit Adema, Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality in his letter to Parliament. In light of the serious situation, he is working through an intensification plan to prevent Avian influenza, among others to speed up the potential vaccination process and further improve biosecurity on farms.
Avian influenza of the year 2021-2022 began on October 26 last year with the infection of a new type of virus (H5N1) in Zeewold. After 11 infections in November and December, half a million animals were culled by the NVWA through the end of the year. This year there were 87 positive cases at companies or hobby farms with more than 50 birds. Infections continued in the summer until a positive result came out today in Heythuysen (Leudal municipality) in a company of nearly 300,000 laying hens. Here’s the biggest slaughter yet in the coming days. This brings the number of slaughter in 98 sites with confirmed cases of bird flu to 4.7 million animals. It concerns chickens, laying hens, ducks (broilers), turkeys, broilers and waterfowl. Infection and culling at hobby sites with fewer than 50 birds are not included in this.
Also preventive execution
In addition, since October 2021, birds on surrounding farms have been culled at 43 sites as a precaution, because they were close to an infected site and in a number of farms that had risky (personal) contact with an infected site. The number of birds that have been preventively culled is now 1.1 million. This brings the total number of animals culled in this way under NVWA supervision for avian influenza to more than 5.8 million so far. The actual number is slightly higher, because slaughter numbers at hobby sites with fewer than 50 birds are not included in this.
Events with dire consequences
NVWA is working closely with various parties to combat this, including veterinarians, the Animal Health Service, Rendac, carriers, capture teams and in coordination with the WBVR reference laboratory, GGD, counties, municipalities and security districts. Many people are involved in the execution process. These are drastic events for many of the animals being culled, for poultry farmers, their families and their environment, as well as for employees involved in companies that help carry out culling.
Work quickly and carefully
In the podcast (30 minutes), Labout discusses his role as the supervising vet during executions. Together with the NVWA front team, he was ready – day and night – for a year to go out in the event of a positive result of the infection. A quick report of suspiciousness, quick confirmation, and a quick and effective approach to clearance are essential, according to Labout: “It’s about balancing speed and care when clearing to prevent further spread.” In the podcast, he recounts how a blanket of warm carbon dioxide gas descends on animals during gasification. This is done carefully with concern for the animal’s welfare, with the Labout checked in the barn to see if the birds have died in an animal-worthy manner.
I never used to before
Often dozens of people work on execution according to a strict hygiene protocol, including a shower cart and protective clothing, because the work is not without risks. For now, culling is the only way to prevent what’s worse: there is no cure and no approved vaccine for bird flu (yet). The podcast also focuses on the emotional impact of the participants. After the culling and recent contamination on his farm, poultry farmer Theo Boss said: “You’ll never get used to it. It’s a rollercoaster where the chickens are gone two days after the results.”
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