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European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HaDEA)

Avian influenza in poultry and wild birds

Avian influenza (AI) is a highly contagious viral disease that mainly occurs in poultry and wild water birds. AI viruses are transmissible from animals to humans either directly (from birds or contaminated environments) or indirectly (through an intermediate host, such as pigs).

AI viruses are either high or low pathogenic depending on the molecular characteristic of the virus and its ability to cause disease and death in poultry populations. Low pathogenic AI viruses cause no or mild disease. On the other side, high pathogenic AI viruses can cause severe disease and very high death rate in poultry.

Both high and low pathogenic AI viruses can spread quickly through poultry flocks. Moreover, low pathogenic AI viruses can mutate into highly pathogenic strains. This is why early detection of low pathogenic AI virus strains is of high importance. In addition, prompt management of AI outbreaks decreases the virus load in susceptible avian species and environment. This limits the risk of human infection with AI virus strains that have zoonotic potential and contributes to securing the poultry production and trade.

In 2021 and 2022, the Commission is awarding overall €2.7 million and €3 million respectively, to 26 EU countries in order to contribute to early detection of avian influenza virus in domestic birds. This allows faster response to prevent the spread and to contain disease outbreaks.