Situation in Belgium

Avian influenza is an official disease for which Belgium applies European and national legislation, in accordance with the framework defined by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). 

Poultry

On the 26th of November 2020, an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N5 was reported in a poultry farm in Menen (West Flanders). As a result, restriction zones - a 3 km protection zone and a 10 km surveillance zone - have been established around this outbreak.

On December 17, 2020, an outbreak of low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) type H5 was detected in a poultry farm in Diksmuide (West Flanders). A temporary buffer zone of 1 km has been established around the outbreak.

The situation has stabilized: there were no new outbreaks and the delimited restriction zones have been lifted.

Outbreak

Viral strain

Zones

Date of delimitation

Date of lifting

Menen

H5N5
(high pathogenic)

Protection zone (3 km)

Surveillance zone (10 km)

26/11/2020

26/11/2020

17/12/2020

26/12/2020

Diksmuide

H5Nx
(low pathogenic)

Temporary buffer zone (1 km)

17/12/2020

07/01/2021

Captive birds

On December 8, 2020, a case of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5 was also confirmed on captive birds held by a hobby holder in the municipality of Dinant (Namur). As a result, a temporary buffer zone with a radius of 500 m has been delimited around this case. There are no poultry holdings nor poultry / poultry products handling establishments in the 500 m buffer zone.

The situation has stabilized: there were no new cases and the delimited restriction zones has been lifted.

Outbreak

Viral strain

Zones

Date of delimitation

Date of lifting

Dinant

H5Nx
(high pathogenic)

Temporary buffer zone (500 m)

08/12/2020

07/01/2021

Wild birds

Since November 13, 2020, several cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza type H5N8 have been observed in wild birds in different location, indicating that avian influenza is circulating well in wild birds in our country.

    Measures

    Since November 1st, 2020, due to the current European situation, the biosecurity measures have been reinforced as to  avoid the introduction of the virus into the poultry establishments:

    • mandatory confinement of poultry in the buildings or use of special infrastructure to avoid contact with wild birds
    •  mandatory indoors feeding and watering
    • prohibition on the use of water from surface water reservoirs or rainwater accessible to wild birds unless the water is treated to ensure inactivation of potential viruses

    Since the 15th of November 2020,the following measures are applicable throughout Belgium:

    • All poultry and birds, including pigeons, from poultry farms and private keepers must be confined or protected in such a way as to avoid contact with wild birds. This measure does not apply to ratites.
    • Feeding and watering of poultry and other captive birds must be done indoors or in such a way as to make contact with wild birds impossible.
    • Watering of poultry and other captive birds with water from surface water tanks or rainwater accessible to wild birds is prohibited unless such water is treated to ensure inactivation of possible viruses.
    • All gatherings (exhibitions, contests, markets) of poultry and birds are prohibited, both for professionals and individuals.

    Following the confirmation of an outbreak in poultry, the following measures are implemented (in addition to the stamping out of all the poultry present in the outbreak):

    • delimitation of a 3-km protection zone and a 10-km surveillance zone around the outbreak,
    • prohibition of movements of poultry within the demarcated zones, except for transit movements,
    • increased clinical surveillance in the farms in the zones,
    • mandatory application of the principle of all in-all out for the entire country

    Following the confirmation of an outbreak  in captive birds, the following measures are implemented (in addition to the stamping out of all the captive birds present on the premises where the case was confirmed:

    • delimitation of a 500 m buffer zone around the location,
    • prohibition of movements of poultry within the buffer zone, with the exception of transit movements.

    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 WAHID-interface on the OIE-website.
    Last updated: 08/01/2021