Brussels, 18 March 2003
No avian influenza in Belgium
As the suspicion of avian influenza in Belgium has been ruled out by laboratory testing, the protective measures put in place by the European Commission have now been lifted. In the Netherlands, the existing measures have been prolonged until 27 March with some changes in the possible movements of poultry within the country.
The Belgian authorities confirmed today at the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health that no virus of avian influenza was isolated and the suspicion of avian influenza can be ruled out. The EU measures are therefore lifted with immediate effect.
Suspicion of an outbreak of avian influenza in the province of Antwerp, close to the Dutch border, arose on 11 March. The Belgian authorities immediately put in place protective measures and the Commission on 12 March adopted EU measures (see IP/03/366). These measures included a nation-wide standstill for the transport of live poultry and hatching eggs and a prohibition on dispatching any live poultry or hatching eggs from the whole territory of Belgium. The measures contained in the Commission Decision were applicable until 20 March 2003 unless the suspicion was officially ruled out by laboratory testing.
In a statement the Committee expressed their appreciation for the swift and thorough actions taken by the Belgian authorities in order to contain the threat of disease and agreed to repeal the Commission Decision. In view of the epidemiological situation in the Netherlands, the Belgian authorities stated they will maintain an increased awareness situation. The buffer zone, installed by the Belgian authorities, will be maintained until the last virological test has been completed.
The Dutch representative gave a detailed report on the situation and a provisional result of the monitoring programme launched in the whole country. The Committee agreed to extend the restrictive measures (now applicable until 20 March) until 27 March at midnight. However, the movements within the Netherlands have been slightly eased. From 21 March onwards, poultry for immediate slaughter including spent laying hens, day-old chickens and pullets and hatching eggs may be transported within the Netherlands in areas outside the surveillance zones. The situation and the measures adopted will be reviewed by the Committee next Tuesday, 25 March.