Spain seemed to be out of the woods for years, but bird flu has now reached the chicken and turkey farms here. In fact, the current bird flu outbreak is the largest in Spanish history, affecting poultry in Castile and León and Andalucia in particular.
In just one month’s time, a total of 665,000 animals from 16 poultry farms had to be culled in Spain. According to experts, the current drought has transferred the avian flu virus from wild birds to chickens and turkeys. The avian flu epidemic in Spain affects both factory and free-range poultry.
Low risk to public health
It will be at least another two months before this seasonal disease among birds will disappear. Health authorities say that the risk of the bird flu virus to humans is low. However, the Ministries of Agriculture and Health are keeping track of how many people working in poultry farming are affected by the virus.
In any case, the bird flu virus cannot be transmitted to humans by eating eggs, boiled or roasted chicken, duck, or turkey. Transmission is possible through contact with sick or dead animals that are infected with the virus. People who do get sick from it generally have mild symptoms.
Wild birds in need of water
Due to the lack of rain, there are currently many more migratory birds in the wetlands of Spain than usual. It is these migratory birds that carry the virus and transmit it to the animals on poultry farms. Spain is located in the middle of the migration route between Africa and Northern Europe. This means there is a rich collection of migratory birds in Spain. Because many wetlands are dry, the birds move to poultry farms and places where birds are kept as a hobby. For example, more and more birds go to places where they find water. That way the bird flu virus is easily spread.
Initially, such an infection in poultry is symptom-free. If the virus then starts circulating, it can easily mutate and become so sickening that all animals die within 24 and 48 hours from the virus.
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Largest bird flu epidemic ever in Spain
In Spain, bird flu, or avian influenza, was first detected on a turkey farm in Fuenterrebollo (Segovia) in mid-January. After that, more affected poultry farms followed quickly and there is now the largest bird flu epidemic ever in Spain. Yet the situation is not yet as alarming as in France, for example. Here, millions of animals have already been culled. There are also outbreaks of the bird flu virus in the Netherlands and between 1 and 2 million animals have been culled there since October. Experts speak of the largest bird flu outbreak in Europe in history.