Situation in Belgium

WOAH (ex OIE) HPAI free status for Belgium regained on the 26th of January 2024 and approved and published by the WOAH on 22th of March 2024. 

  • WOAH official attestation: self-declaration "HPAI free status for Belgium" (26/01/2024, approved and published by the WOAH on 22/03/2024 currently only available in French) 
  • Attestation of the CVO ENG - FR

The following facts can be highlighted:

  • Strict control and eradication measures were adopted, including total culling of birds and cleaning and disinfection of all affected holdings, in accordance with WOAH provisions;  
  • Surveillance has been carried out in accordance with Articles 10.4.26. to 10.4.30. of the WOAH Terrestrial Code;  
  • Products are imported in accordance with Articles 10.4.7. to 10.4.22. of the WOAH Terrestrial Code;
  • An ongoing awareness programme is in place to encourage reporting of suspected highly pathogenic avian influenza; 
  • As of 26th of January 2024, i.e. 28 days after the stamping out (i.e. cleaning and disinfection of the last affected establishment) carried out on the 29th of December 2023, no further outbreaks have occurred in poultry, which, together with the other measures and in application of Article 10.4.6. of the Terrestrial Code, allows Belgium to regain its status as free from infection with highly pathogenic avian influenza 

With the migration of birds from northern Europe to (North) Africa, a period of increased risk for highly pathogenic avian influenza started in November 2021. This increased risk period is still in force but the measures were adapted depending on the evolution of the situation in Belgium. Since measures were last softened in June 2023, they have been reinforced once more on the 9th of December 2023 in response to the return of migratory birds to Europe and the increase of outbreaks in poultry in Belgium.

For more information on the measures implemented due to the establishment of the increased risk period, see the “Preventive measures” section below.

In 2022, HPAI was detected in 11 professional poultry farms, 7 traders, 10 hobby holders and 1 zoological park. All outbreaks involved a H5N1 virus strain.

 

Poultry

The first outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in poultry in 2023 has been confirmed on the 12th of January 2023. Additional outbreaks have since then been confirmed. In total, 8 H5N1 HPAI outbreaks occurred in poultry in 2023.

The control measures provided for by the European legislation (under which a stamping out in the outbreaks, the immediate delimitation of a 3 km protection zone and a 10 km surveillance zone, movement restrictions within the zones and an increased surveillance within the zones) have been implemented.

The last outbreak of HPAI in poultry was confirmed on the 29th of December 2023. All outbreaks confirmed in 2023 have been closed and the zones were therefore lifted for these outbreaks. No outbreaks of HPAI occurred in poultry in 2024. Meeting the requirements established by the WOAH, the highly pathogenic avian influenza infection in poultry free status was regained on the 26th of January 2024 in accordance with the rules in force of the WOAH, 28 days after the end of the stamping out (i.e. cleaning and disinfection of the last affected establishment) on the 29thof December 2023. 

The WOAH approved and published  Belgium’s self-declaration to regain its status as free from HPAI in poultry on the 22th  of March, 2024.

Localisation of

the Outbreak

Province in which the outbreak is located

Viral strain

Zones

Date of delimitation(1)

Applicable until … included

Tongeren Limburg H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

12/01/2023

12/01/2023

01/02/2023

10/02/2023

Wervik (n°1) West-Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

20/01/2023

20/01/2023

09/02/2023

18/02/2023

Wervik (n°2) West-Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

25/01/2023

25/01/2023

15/02/2023

24/02/2023

Aalst East Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

24/02/2023

24/02/2023

16/03/2023

25/03/2023

Diksmuide (n°1) West-Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

01/12/2023

01/12/2023

28/12/2023

06/01/2024

Diksmuide (n°2) West-Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

08/12/2023

08/12/2023

28/12/2023

06/01/2024

Alveringem West-Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

26/12/2023

26/12/2023

15/01/2024

24/01/2024

Veurne West-Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

29/12/2023

29/12/2023

18/01/2024

27/01/2024

(1) All restriction zones have been established from the moment the HPAI outbreaks were confirmed.

Captive birds

Outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza have been confirmed in captive birds.

When such outbreaks are confirmed on premises where 50 birds or more are held (establishments of traders in captive birds for example), the same control measures are implemented as for outbreaks in poultry (stamping out, delimitation of 3km and 10 km zones, movement restrictions within the zones, targeted surveillance to verify absence of virus circulation prior to the lifting of the zones).

When such outbreaks are confirmed on premises where less than 50 birds are held and with a favorable risk analysis (isolated private households and no contact with poultry holdings for example), measures are limited to a stamping out of the birds present on the premises and a cleaning and disinfection of the premises. No zones are delimited.

The outbreaks of HPAI in captive birds do not have an impact on HPAI free status as stated in the WOAH Terrestrial Code (Chapter 10.4., article 10.4.1): 

“A notification of infection of birds other than poultry, including wild birds, with influenza A viruses of high pathogenicity, or of infection of domestic or captive wild birds with low pathogenicity avian influenza viruses does not affect the high pathogenicity avian influenza status of the country or zone. A Member Country should not impose bans on the international trade of poultry commodities in response to such notifications, or to other information on the presence of any non-notifiable influenza A virus in birds.”

Information relating to all confirmed outbreaks in captive birds is detailed in the table hereunder. All outbreaks confirmed in 2022 and 2023 have been closed and the zones that were delimited when necessary have therefore been lifted.

Localisation of

the Outbreak

Province in which the outbreak is located

Viral strain

Zones

Date of delimitation(1)

Applicable until … included

Berlare

08/02/2023

East-Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Not applicable

/

/

Philippeville

10/02/2023

Namur H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Not applicable

/

/

Lochristi

16/02/2023
East Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Not applicable

/

/

Lens

16/02/2023
Hainaut H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Not applicable

/

/

Zandhoven

17/02/2023
Antwerp H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Not applicable

/

/

Peruwelz

20/02/2023

Hainaut H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Not applicable

/

/

Menen

27/02/2023

West-Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Not applicable

/

/

Aalst

28/02/2023

East Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Not applicable

/

/

Dour

20/03/2023

Hainaut H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Not applicable

/

/

Erpe-Mere

23/03/2023

East Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Not applicable

/

/

Villers-la-Ville

11/04/2023

Walloon Brabant

H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Not applicable

/

/

(1) All restriction zones have been established from the moment the HPAI outbreaks were confirmed.

 

Wild birds

Since the 15th of  November 2021, cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza type H5 have been identified in wild birds in Belgium.

 

Preventive Measures

  • With the migration of European waterbirds back to Europe and the increased risk represented by the circulation of the AI virus in wild birds, Belgium decided to reinforce the biosecurity measures for poultry and captive birds. A period of increased risk was therefore implemented on 15th November 2021. Measures have been adapted on several occasions to take account of changes in the epidemiological situation. The increased risk period is still in force and measures were reinforced on the 9th of December 2023 in response to the return of migratory birds to Europe and the increase of outbreaks in poultry in Belgium.
    The following measures are applicable on the whole territory:
    • It is mandatory to confine or protect poultry or captive birds in registered establishments (e.g. with nets).
    • It is mandatory to water poultry and captive birds inside or under nets.
    • There is a ban on using untreated surface water for poultry and captive birds.
    • It is mandatory to feed all poultry indoors (or under nets) to limit the risk of contact with wild birds.
    • Increased surveillance in commercial poultry farms and current provisions concerning thinning of poultry for slaughter are maintained.  
       
  • The following measures are applicable for gatherings throughout the year: all gatherings (exhibitions, contests, markets) of poultry and birds are prohibited, both for professionals and individuals, except non – commercial gatherings and public markets of captive birds organised by a local authority under the following conditions:
    • The following measures apply for the non-commercial gatherings of captive birds:
      • The simultaneous presence of registered poultry traders or hobby holders on the one hand and non-registered hobby holders on the other hand is prohibited.
      • The organizer of the gathering must register with the appropriate FASFC Local Control Unit at least 48 hours before the start of the event;
      • The organizer of the gathering keeps a list of the names and addresses of all keepers who participate to the gathering with their animals. This list must be kept at the disposal of the FASFC for at least 2 months;
      • The gathering is placed under the official supervision of an approved veterinarian appointed by the organizer of the gathering;
      • The organizer communicates the name of the appointed approved veterinarian to the Local Control Unit concerned before the start of the gathering.
      • Chickens, turkeys, guinea fowl, quail (except dwarf quail), pheasants, partridges, ratites, Columba pigeons and peacocks present at the assembly must have been confined or protected in such a way as to prevent contact with wild birds for 10 days prior to the assembly.
    • The following measures apply for public markets of captive birds organised by a local authority:
      • The local authority must register with the appropriate FASFC Local Control Unit at least 3 months before the start of the market. In the case of a weekly market, this registration needs only to be done once;
      • The local authority keeps a list of the names and addresses of all sellers participating in the market. This list must be kept at the disposal of the FASFC for at least 2 months;
      • The market is placed under the official supervision of an approved veterinarian appointed by the local authority;
      • The local authority communicates the name of the appointed approved veterinarian to the Local Control Unit concerned before the start of the gathering.
      • Only registered traders and hobby holders may sell captive birds. The sale by not registered hobby holder keepers is prohibited.

 

Surveillance programmes

Since 2004 several surveillance programmes have been implemented by the FASFC in order to detect any possible introduction of avian influenza:

Official surveillance programmes in poultry

  • A serological screening: with the aim of determining the prevalence of avian influenza viruses in poultry on farms. Blood samples are taken on poultry farms with more than 200 poultry of the species ducks, geese, partridges and pheasants.
  • A passive monitoring: in which all cases of abnormal disease or mortality in poultry and all cases of a significant drop in egg laying, or sharply reduced feed and water intake, are examined by the farm veterinarian. If the veterinarian cannot rule out the possibility of infection with the avian influenza virus, no therapeutic treatment may be initiated before samples or carcasses have been submitted to an approved laboratory for autopsy and additional examination.

Official surveillance programmes in wild birds

  • An active monitoring: in which cloacal or tracheal swabs are taken from wild birds and examined. Sampling shall take place at the same time as the ringing activities carried out by the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS) around the country, and to a lesser extent by hunters during the hunting season for water game.
  • A passive monitoring: in which suspicious mortality among wild birds is investigated. In addition, dead birds that meet a number of criteria in terms of species and numbers shall be transferred to the laboratory for analysis. All samples are examined by the national reference laboratory for avian influenza Sciensano.
Last updated: 02/07/2024