Extremely dangerous bird flu is thriving in the north of the country, and hundreds of dead wild birds have been found

Inspection of a poultry farm in the Oldekerk in Groningen.ANP photo

It is about the H5N8 formula, which is very dangerous for birds. The virus mainly affects barnacle geese and black-headed gulls, but rare raptors may also be at risk. In a previous outbreak of H5N8 virus among wild birds in 2016, an estimated 10 to 40 percent of perennial peregrine falcons died in the Netherlands. The chance of the virus infecting humans is extremely small.

Previously, the virus was mainly present among poultry, but since 2014, wild birds in the Netherlands have been increasingly affected. There is a general trend that this is highly pathogenic (pathogenic, red.Thijs Kuiken, a virologist at Erasmus MC, says the bird flu virus is increasingly adapting to wild birds. Wild birds are also currently dying in Germany, Denmark and Sweden.

The H5N8 avian virus was last seen this fall in wild waterfowl and poultry farms. Then ducks, chicks, chickens and turkeys were infected on 12 farms. In total 700,000 birds were culled. The virus usually comes our way in the fall as waterfowl migrate in hibernation in Western Europe. Often the Ministry of Agriculture imposes a housing requirement on poultry farms to prevent the virus from spreading.

Dead Sea Eagle

Especially if the virus is transmitted from wild waterfowl to birds of prey such as falcons, peregrine falcons and sea eagles, this could have a major impact on the population. Last weekend, a litter with a young bald eagle was found dead for two weeks in the Groningen part of Hunzedal. Bald eagle is a protected bird species. The young man was likely infected with the inflamed barnacle goose, as there were remnants of it in the nest.

Birds can become infected through contact with an infected bird, through airborne virus particles, or through droppings from other birds. When the virus reaches the brain after infection, birds cannot walk or swim straight ahead and thus begin to spin in circles when they swim. They can also fall from the sky in flight.

There is a possibility that the virus will still lead to infection in the poultry sector. “In the long term, you have to adapt your poultry farming to this, for example by not keeping the animals too close to each other or by getting vaccinated against the highly contagious avian influenza virus,” Kuiken says. It is true that the virus will soon be less able to spread due to approaching summer temperatures and because barnacle geese are already leaving north and east to reproduce.

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Megan Vasquez

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