Vienna, 19 July 2023 – The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has urged people in Poland to keep their pets indoors after an outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), commonly referred to as bird flu, has continued to spread across the country.
The EFSA stated, "It is recommended to avoid exposure of domestic cats and dogs, and in general carnivore pets, to dead or diseased animals."
A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) showed that forty-six cats in the region were tested and 29 were found to be carrying the disease. The WHO stated, “This is the first report of high numbers of cats infected with avian influenza spread over a wide geographical area within any country.”
The source of the HPAI outbreak has still yet to be determined.
FOUR PAWS, the global animal welfare organisation, has said the situation in Poland is “extremely critical” and a “part of a wider problem across Europe.”
This follows from over the weekend were four fur farms in southern Finland, raising the total up to five, experience an outbreak of HPAI, all of which were currently being investigated by the Finnish Food Authority. This coincides with five dogs and a cat in Italy being diagnosed, while at the same, 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.
Wendla Beyer, FOUR PAWS Policy Coordinator, said, “This is the first-time bird flu has infected so many cats over a wide area. This is an extremely critical situation in Poland and part of a wider problem we are witnessing across the continent for animal welfare and public health. Bird flu is a looming pandemic.
“It seems governments have not learnt their lesson post COVID-19, over the past few years we witnessed the largest avian influenza outbreak worldwide, and now, as we have seen, house cats are dying from the virus".
Wendla Beyer, FOUR PAWS Policy Coordinator
“This virus needs to be taken seriously and coordinated action needs to tackle the root causes of this panzootic, especially as the source of these infections in cats has yet to be identified and there are no policies in place to address the underlying problem that has caused HPAI to spiral out of control: intensive 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.
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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. www.four-paws.org