Situation in Belgium

 

On the 20th of May 2022, WOAH (ex OIE) approved Belgium’s self-declaration on the recovery of the free status of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses in poultry. Belgium was free of HPAI in poultry from 27 April 2022 to 20 September 2022. This status was lost following an outbreak in one poultry farm on the 21st of September 2022.

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 had been softened on the 14th of May 2022 following the epidemiological situation regarding avian influenza in Belgium. On the 5th of October 2022, due to the return of migratory birds to Europe and the increase of outbreaks in wild birds and poultry in Belgium, the measures of the increased risk period were again reinforced on the whole territory.

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

Poultry

The first outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza in poultry of this ‘2021-2022 at risk’ season have been confirmed on the 8th of December 2021. Additional outbreaks have since then been confirmed. All outbreaks involve a H5N1 virus strain.

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.

Information relating to all confirmed outbreaks in poultry is detailed in the table hereunder.

Localisation of

the Outbreak

Province in which the outbreak is located

Viral strain

Zones

Date of delimitation*

Date of lifting

Ravels

Antwerp

H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

08/12/2021

08/12/2021

29/12/2021

07/01/2022

Alveringem

West-Flanders

H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

08/12/2021

08/12/2021

29/12/2021

07/01/2022

Veurne West-Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

28/12/2021

28/12/2021

18/01/2022

27/01/2022

Meulebeke West-Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

30/03/2022

30/03/2022

20/04/2022

29/04/2022

Sint-Laureins East-Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

21/09/2022

21/09/2022

14/10/2022

30/10/2022

Sint-Laureins East-Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

28/09/2022

28/09/2022

19/10/2022

30/10/2022

Sint-Laureins East-Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

30/09/2022

30/09/2022

21/10/2022

30/10/2022

Wingene West-Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

03/10/2022

03/10/2022

24/10/2022

02/11/2022

Tongeren Limburg H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

10/10/2022

10/10/2022

31/10/2022

09/11/2022

Hoogstraten Antwerp H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

24/10/2022

24/10/2022

14/11/2022

23/11/2022

Hoogstraten Antwerp H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

28/10/2022

28/10/2022

19/11/2022

28/11/2022

Turnhout Antwerp H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

10/11/2022

10/11/2022

01/12/2022

10/12/2022

Le Doulieu (France) (2) / H5N1
(high pathogenic)
Surveillance zone (10 km)

16/11/2022

16/12/2022

Houthulst West-Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

26/12/2022

26/12/2022

17/01/2023

26/01/2023(3)

Houthulst West-Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

27/12/2022

27/12/2022

17/01/2023

26/01/2023(3)

Tongeren Limburg H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

12/01/2023

12/01/2023

02/02/2023(3)

11/02/2023(3)

Wervik West-Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

20/01/2023

20/01/2023

10/02/2023(3)

19/02/2023(3)

Wervik West-Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

25/01/2023

25/01/2023

16/02/2023(3)

25/02/2023(3)

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

(2) Outbreak located in other countries under 10 km from the border with Belgium and where the control measures provided for in European legislation are also implemented.

(3) This is the provisional date. The actual date of the lifting will depend on the results of the final monitoring.

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.

Information relating to all confirmed outbreaks in captive birds is detailed in the table hereunder.

Localisation of

the Outbreak

Province in which the outbreak is located

Viral strain

Zones

Date of delimitation(1)

Date of lifting

Bocholt Limburg

H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

07/01/2022

07/01/2022

28/01/2022

06/02/2022

Vrasene 

11/03/2022

East-Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)
                  /                 /            /
Zoutleeuw Flemish Brabant H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

22/06/2022

22/06/2022

13/07/2022(2)

22/07/2022(2)

Roeselare

06/08/2022

West-Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)
                   /                   /           /
Bocholt Limburg H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

21/09/2022

21/09/2022

15/10/2022

24/10/2022

Beernem West-Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

21/09/2022

21/09/2022

13/10/2022

22/10/2022

Zwevezele

27/09/2022

West-Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)

/

/

/

Diksmuide West-Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

05/10/2022

05/10/2022

27/10/2022

05/11/2022

Theux Liege H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

17/10/2022

17/10/2022

07/11/2022

16/11/2022

Evergem East-Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

20/10/2022

20/10/2022

10/11/2022

19/11/2022

Aywaille

21/10/2022
Liege H5N1
(high pathogenic)
                    /                   /            /

Eke

27/10/2022
East-Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)
                    /                   /            /

Brugelette (2)

05/11/2022

Hainaut H5N1
(high pathogenic)

/

/

/

Lennik

22/11/2022

Flemish Braban H5N1
(high pathogenic)

/

/

/

Lontzen

25/11/2022

Liege H5N1
(high pathogenic)

/

/

/

Sint-Truiden

13/12/2022
Limburg H5N1
(high pathogenic)
                    /                   /            /

Durbuy

20/12/2022
Luxemburg H5N1
(high pathogenic)
                    /                  /            /

Diksmuide

23/12/2022
West-Flanders H5N1
(high pathogenic)
                    /                  /           /

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

(2) This outbreak concerns a zoological park with more than 50 captive birds of various species which most of them are endangered protected species. Considering the high genetic and cultural value of the captive birds and the derogation provided for in the Commission Delegated Regulation 2020/687/EU, no culling was performed. Measures were only applied in the park and no zoning was established. All the captive birds are isolated and the necessary biosecurity measures are applied.

 

Wild birds

Since the 15th of  November 2021, several 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. Considering the evolution of the epidemiological situation, the measures were adapted and softened on the 14th of May 2022 but the period of increased risk itself was not lifted.  On the 5th of October, the measures were reinforced due to the increase of outbreaks in wild birds and poultry. The following measures are applicable on the whole territory:
    • All poultry or captive birds in registered establishments must be confined or protected to prevent any contact with wild birds.
    • All poultry and captive birds must be fed indoors (or under nets) to limit the risk of contact with wild birds.
    • Watering of poultry and other captive birds with water from surface water tanks or rainwater accessible to wild birds is prohibited, unless it is treated to ensure inactivation of potential viruses.
    • Thinning of poultry can only occur under the conditions determined by the FASFC
  • These following measures are also applicable for gatherings throughout the year: All gatherings (exhibitions, contests, markets) of poultry and birds are prohibited, both for professionals and individuals, except for the captive birds non – commercial gatherings and for 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 AFSCA Local Control Unite 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 AFSCA Local Control Unite at least 3 months before the start of the market. In the case of a weekly market, this registration needs only 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 holders 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 of subtypes H5 and H7 in poultry on poultry farms. Blood samples are taken on poultry farms with more than 200 poultry birds (excluding broiler farms) once a year. A second sampling is carried out during the year on farms located in sensitive nature areas, free range farms and all turkey, goose and duck farms.
  • 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. The most recent information on outbreaks can be found at the WAHIS-interface on the WOAH-website.
Last updated: 26/01/2023