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Nearly 48 million animals culled in Europe's 'largest ever' bird flu epidemic

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By Euronews
More than 2,500 cases of bird flu were recorded at European farms in the last year.
More than 2,500 cases of bird flu were recorded at European farms in the last year.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File   -  

The latest outbreak of bird flu is the most serious epidemic in Europe on record, according to health authorities.

Over 47.7 million animals have been culled on European farms since last autumn due to the virus, according to the latest figures.

The report was published on Monday by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the EU Reference Laboratory for Avian Influenza.

Nearly 2,500 outbreaks of bird flu were recorded in poultry farms in the last year, while more than 3,500 cases were found in wild birds. Another 190 cases have been registered in animals kept elsewhere, such as in zoos.

The ECDC said cases of bird flu had been recorded from Portugal in southern Europe to the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard in the Arctic Ocean.

A total of 37 countries had recorded cases of bird flu from October 2021 to September 9, the report found.

Bird flu has previously been recorded during summer but the "unprecedented" scale of infections means the virus could now spread all year round.

The ECDC notes that bird flu can occasionally infect humans and lead to mild or "very severe" illnesses, but health authorities have reiterated that transmission from birds to humans has been "a rare phenomenon".

On Monday, Spain's health ministry acknowledged that a worker on a poultry farm in Guadalajara contracted bird flu in late September.

The man remained asymptomatic and was placed in isolation until he tested negative, the ministry said.

The EU agency has however warned that people who work with or are regularly exposed to birds may be at risk of infection and have called for improvements to health and safety regulations.

"Vigilance is needed to identify infections with influenza viruses as early as possible and to inform risk assessments and public health action," said Andrea Ammon, director of the ECDC.

Additional sources • AFP