Bird Flu Outbreak Continues Across Europe

Italian veterinary services have confirmed that five dogs and one cat in Brescia have been diagnosed with Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)


Vienna, 12 July 2023 – Five dogs and one cat have been diagnosed with HPAI on a poultry farm in Brescia that is the site of an avian flu outbreak. The dogs and cat had contact with the infected birds.

This follows last month ongoing story of the diagnoses of 24 sick or dead cats in Poland with Bird Flu, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), with key European health officials now stepping in to help with the situation and control its spread.

And only last week, just off the coast in the United Kingdom, 330 seagulls' carcasses were found on the local beaches after bird flu was officially detected at a nearby farm.

FOUR PAWS, the global animal welfare organisation, said the evolution is becoming “deeply concerning” and that HPAI is a “looming pandemic” if not dealt with the severity that it requires. The virus which was found in the cats in Poland showed mutations that facilitate transmission in mammals.

“We have seen cats in Poland die from this disease, and now other house pets have caught HPAI in Italy. This is deeply concerning. We need to reshape farming and our relationship with animals and ecosystems if we want to protect public health.”

Wendla Beyer, FOUR PAWS Policy Coordinator

Intensive farms, where hundreds, even thousands, of animals are crowded in confined facilities, are reservoirs for viruses to mutate and spread or spill over to other species or humans. This can have devastating consequences. Experts are signaling that the HPAI crisis is a product of factory farming.

In 2021/22, HPAI, reached unprecedented geographic spread across continents and record outbreaks, with 50 million poultry culled over that time in Europe alone.

Beyer added, “It's becoming obvious that biosecurity and vaccines are not enough to contain avian influenza; HPAI outbreaks are happening inside factory farms with the highest biosecurity too. We need to reduce the number of animals farmed and reorganise food production systems if we are serious about limiting infectious disease risks.”

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FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions.

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