Highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N8 confirmed in Netherlands’ wild swans

A highly infectious pathogen H5N8 avian influenza was found in two dead swans in the Netherlands.

Samples of two swans part of a group of six dead swans were sent to Wageningen Bioveterinary Research (WBVR) found dead in the Netherlands’ Groene Hart region, near Kockengen.

The Dutch agricultural ministry will consult with experts to see what steps, if any, have to be taken to avoid poultry farms being infected, the ministry said in a statement.

Last month the European Union urged countries to step up surveillance against possible outbreaks of avian flu among wild and domestic birds. The disease is highly contagious for birds, but risks of transmission to humans are considered low, according to EU health and food agencies.

Transmission to humans is rare, but has occurred in the past and can lead to death.

H5N8 virus was detected in dead mute swans in Western Russia in August and was later found in a tufted duck and mallard as well. The virus was then detected in dead wild birds in Kazakhstan in September. H5N8 was found in swans at a zoo in Jerusalem (Israel) in October. Wild migratory birds can bring the virus from these areas to Europe during their autumn migration. However, H5N8 viruses have yet to be reported along the migration routes towards the Netherlands from countries to the east.