Highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has infected poultry at a farm in Germany, while the UK has announced the discovery of the disease in a wild swan.
This is the third suspected or confirmed outbreak of H5N1 on a poultry farm in the European Union following a confirmed outbreak in France in February and a suspected outbreak in Sweden in March).
Since the beginning of the recent avian flu crisis, consumption of poultry and eggs has fallen dramatically in some member states, leading to a sharp reduction in prices.
In Germany the authorities are applying EU control measures. The presence of H5N1 was discovered at a poultry farm in Bernsdorf, Saxony, close to Leipzig. The farm consists of 8000 turkeys, 5000 geese and 3300 hens held in separate units.
The presence of H5N1 was confirmed by the National Reference Laboratory at noon yesterday.
Further tests are now being carried out by the laboratory to confirm whether or not this is the Asian strain of the H5N1 virus.
All birds on the farm will be killed and destroyed, and control and monitoring measures will be conducted at other farms in the vicinity.
A high risk area three km protection zone around the outbreaks and also a surrounding surveillance zone of 10 km has been put in place.
In the protection zone, poultry must be kept indoors, movement of poultry is banned except directly to the slaughterhouse and the dispatch of meat outside the zone is forbidden except in certain cases.
In the UK, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it expects to have confirmation from a laboratory if the swan died due to H5N1 by today. The UK will become the 13th EU country to have the disease.
The dead wild bird was found in Scotland. Measures to restrict the movement of poultry, eggs and poultry products from the zones where the swan was found were brought into effect immediately.
If disease is confirmed as H5N1 Defra may put further restrictions n place, subject to a veterinary risk assessment, such as housing and movement controls.
The march of avian influenza across Europe has heightened the public's fears over the safety of the bloc's poultry. Poultry consumption has plunged in many EU member states, by up to 70 per cent in some countries.
Scientists are worried that the H5N1 form of the virus, which can be transmitted from poultry to humans, may mutate so that it can be transmitted from human to human and start a influenza pandemic.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reported in February that recent avian influenza outbreaks in Europe, the Middle East and Africa have caused dramatic swings in poultry consumption, increased trade bans and sharp price declines. The UN agency expects poultry consumption shocks this year in many countries.
"A steady erosion of previously expected gains in per caput poultry consumption will likely push down global poultry consumption in 2006, currently estimated at 81.8 million tonnes, nearly three million tonnes lower than the previous 2006 estimate of 84.6 million tonnes," stated FAO commodity specialist Nancy Morgan.
According to the FAO report consumption shocks are ranging from a dramatic 70 per cent decline in Italy in mid-February to 20 per cent in France and 10 per cent in northern Europe.
In the US, export prices for broiler cuts, after rising to record levels in October, dropped 13 per cent as a result of declining shipments to Eastern Europe and Central Asia in November and December.
In Brazil, where exports account for approximately 30 per cent of total poultry output, the price of day-old chicks, an early warning indicator of potential production changes, is down sharply. Brazil and the US supply about 70 per cent of global poultry trade.
The largest poultry producers and exporters are the United States, Brazil and the EU.
The crisis has also affected the $42 billion dollar feed sector in Europe, with demand losses estimated at up to 40 per cent in some countries, the FAO stated.
Around 200 million chickens have been culled or have died of the disease worldwide since the onset of the crisis in late 2003.