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Brussels, 16 February 2006

Avian Influenza: Measures to be taken in the event of a highly pathogenic outbreak in a Member State

Two Commission Decisions on measures to be taken by Member States in the case of an outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza in wild birds and in commercial poultry on their territory have received favourable opinions by the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH) today. The Decisions, which will now be adopted by the Commission [in the coming days] add to and reinforce the stringent provisions for an avian flu outbreak already set out in EU legislation[1]. EU Public Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said: “While we have to learn to live with periodic outbreaks of avian influenza in wild birds, the European Union is making every effort to contain avian influenza in wild birds and seek to prevent it reaching commercial poultry. These two decisions build on the EU Directive on avian influenza and further strengthen the range of precautionary measures we have adopted in recent months, which include increased surveillance, confining poultry indoors in risk areas and banning imports of risk products. It is understandable that the public is concerned, but they need not be unduly alarmed as all the necessary measures are being, and will continue to be, taken.”

The first Decision endorsed by the SCFCAH today outlines the measures to be taken by a Member State in case of a suspected or confirmed case of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 in wild birds, and is broadly in line with the specific measures already adopted by the Commission in the recent days for Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Germany, Austria and Hungary. Among the measures which a Member State must take should it detect suspected or confirmed H5N1 in wild birds in its territory are the establishment of a protection zone of 3km radius around the place where the disease is detected and a further surveillance zone of at least 10km radius around this area. Within both zones, all poultry and captive birds must be kept indoors, on-farm biosecurity measures must be applied, the movement of poultry and other captive birds both within and from the zones should be restricted, and wild bird hunting and the assembly of birds must be forbidden.

The second Decision agreed today relates to an outbreak or suspected outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 in domestic poultry. The EU Directive on Avian Influenza sets out the main measures to be taken, including the establishment of a 3 km protection zone and a 10 km surveillance zone around the outbreak, the culling of infected birds on the holding and of birds on neighbouring holdings suspected of infection, the confinement of poultry indoors, among others. The Decision agreed today by the SCFCAH provides for the additional precaution of defining risk areas around the protection and surveillance zones when the disease is found in domestic flocks.

The risk areas would act as a buffer between the outbreaks and the non-affected parts of the Member State or its neighbouring countries. Strict movement restrictions, bio-security measures and controls will have to be applied in these risk areas, in addition to the measures already foreseen for protection and surveillance zones in under EU legislation. The establishment of risk areas will help to prevent any further spread of the virus, and will provide reassurance to the consumers, poultry sector and trade partners about the safety of products dispatched.

For more information, see: Memo/06/79

[1] Directive 92/40/EEC introducing Community measures for the control of avian influenza and the new Directive 2005/94/EEC

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