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.

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. Four 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

Viral strain

Zones

Date of delimitation*

Date of lifting

Ravels

H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

08/12/2021

08/12/2021

29/12/2021

07/01/2022

Alveringem

H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

08/12/2021

08/12/2021

29/12/2021

07/01/2022

Veurne H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

28/12/2021

28/12/2021

18/01/2022

27/01/2022

Meulebeke 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 H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

21/09/2022

21/09/2022

14/10/2022(2)

23/10/2022(2)

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

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

Captive birds

Six 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

Viral strain

Zones

Date of delimitation(1)

Date of lifting

Bocholt

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

H5N1
(high pathogenic)
                  /                 /            /
Zoutleeuw 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

H5N1
(high pathogenic)
                   /                   /           /
  H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

21/09/2022

21/09/2022

14/10/2022(2)

23/10/2022(2)

  H5N1
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

21/09/2022

21/09/2022

12/10/2022(2)

21/10/2022(2)

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

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

 

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 more favourable epidemiological situation, the measures were adapted and softened as of 14 May 2022. The period of increased risk itself is not lifted and the following measures are still applicable throughout Belgium:
    • Confinement of poultry for professional farmers and bird from private keepers is no longer mandatory but recommended (e.g. with nets).
    • All poultry and other birds must be fed indoors (or under nets) to limit the risk of contact with wild birds.
    • 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 other captive birds non – commercial gatherings.
    • The following measures apply for the non-commercial gatherings of other captive birds:
      • The organizer of the gathering shall register with the appropriate AFSCA 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.

 

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: 27/09/2022