Crisis in France, risks for the people?

The virus of “flu” or rather “bird plague” is spreading on farms in France. 16 million poultry were slaughtered, a record number. What to know about this disease What are the risks of transmission to humans? Illumination with Pr Jeanne Brugère-Picoux, veterinarian and member of the National Academy of Medicine.

[Mise à jour le 3 mai 2022 à 14h25] Avian flu or rather “bird flu” is a animal disease caused by A strains of influenza virus. We are talking about “animal disease“how it is plague affecting animals. It is a contagious, viral, highly contagious disease that affects domestic and wild birds and varies by strain transmitted to humans without necessarily making them ill. Since August 2021, numerous outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) have been detected in wild animals or on farms in Europe. Health authorities in many Member States (Netherlands, Germany, Italy, etc.) have reported outbreaks on poultry farms (turkeys and broilers, laying hens). A first outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza was detected on November 26, 2021 in northern France. At the 2.May 2022, the France Account 1,364 bird flu outbreaks high pathogenic (IAHP) in breeding, 46 cases in wild animals and 30 cases in backyards, according to the Department of Agriculture. Since the beginning of the bird flu epidemic in November 2021 16 million poultry were slaughtered in Francea Record number of slaughter in the area. Given the scale of the current crisis, three European experts traveled to France between April 5th and 7th to help the French authorities contain the spread of the bird flu virus. What make arrangements ? What risks for humans? how come transmission ?

How many cases of bird flu in France?

At the 2.May 2022, the France Account 1,364 bird flu outbreaks high pathogenic (IAHP) in breeding, 46 cases in wild animals and 30 cases in backyards, according to the Department of Agriculture. Since the outbreak of avian influenza in November 2021, 16 million poultry have been slaughtered in France, a record number of slaughterings on the territory.

“We have never had such a dramatic animal disease”

The entire metropolitan area was placed at “high” risk on November 5. “We have never had such a dramatic animal disease, the virus has become very pathogenic, Professor Jeanne Brugère-Picoux, veterinarian and member of the National Academy of Medicine, responds immediately, but underlines this “The epidemic is slowing down”. The main problem is success stop the virus from progressing and above all to avoid contamination of farms for chickens, turkeys, etc. Their attack would result in the loss of many years of genetic research. We have to protect these grandparents.” On the other hand, no fear for the man in France “there There are not the same risk factors as in Asia where contamination has been observed (Live poultry market likely infected, precarious conditions with significant coexistence with uncontrolled poultry, persistence of virus…)” the specialist continues. In France, the protection of poultry is essential given the exceptional risk to humans. It is based on drastic biosecurity measures.

Map of France showing areas associated with bird flu outbreaks – 2 May 2022 © Ministry of Agriculture

What is bird flu?

Bird flu or rather bird plague is a disease caused by Avian flu virus (A) highly pathogenic (HPAI). It’s a virus Influenza virus family. We speak like that in a way insufficient “bird flu” whereas in birds it is a disease characterized by a sepsis associated with encephalitis, and not from a predominantly respiratory disease like the human flu. “That The avian influenza virus was discovered in 1959 and the first case official that we were in France only happened in 2006″ emphasizes Jeanne Brugère-Picoux. This disease is special contagious and the Viruses can even be carried by the wind from one building to another. Many species of wild birds, particularly those living in wetland and aquatic environments, harbor influenza viruses. Anseriformes (particularly ducks, geese and swans) and charadriiformes (such as gulls, terns and shorebirds) are the main natural reservoir of avian influenza virus. The infection can decimate an entire herd in less than 48 hours.

“If people can be infected with the avian influenza virus, they are not necessarily sick”

Can bird flu be transmitted to humans?

transmission of bird flu
Bird flu virus transmission cycle © Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries

“No human case linked to contamination by an HPAI virus has been observed in France to date” reminded the Academy of Medicine in a statement from December 2021. Cases of HPAI H5N1 viruses have been identified in humans and deaths (455 deaths between 2003 and 2019, none in 2020 and 2021), but they stayed very rare and were observed in Individuals who have had close contact with infected poultry or with objects contaminated by their feces. Furthermore, “If humans can be infected with the avian influenza virus, they are not necessarily sick,” emphasizes Jeanne Brugère-Picoux. Humans are not susceptible to this virus at the level of the first cells of the respiratory system, it is necessary to reach the alveoli so that there is a serological reaction with this virus, that is, at the level of the deep respiratory system. At this point you have a serological reaction, but not necessarily disease. During the plague, if we inhale a little bit of the virus present in the feathers, we can have a serological reaction without being sick.” Finally, it should be noted that not all avian influenza viruses are transmitted to humans. Of 144 strains of avian influenza A virus, four have caused human infections: H5N1, H7N3, H7N7 and H9N2.

What are the risks of bird flu for humans?

“The avian influenza virus is very pathogenic to animals, not humans” our interlocutor continues. Remember (again) that no human case linked to contamination by an HPAI virus has been observed in France so far. “Regarding the outbreaks of avian influenza detected in France, there is no reason for human concern, reassures Jeanne Brugère-Picoux. The problem is mainly Protect yourself so as not to contaminate other establishments.” Last but not least, “There has never been an adaptation of the avian influenza virus to the human species with human-to-human transmission. This disease was not classified as a zoonosis before the “bird flu” crisis caused by the HPAI virus of type H5N1 of Asian origin, which was detected in Asia in 1996″.

What are the symptoms of bird flu?

In the rare cases of avian influenza transmitted to humans, the disease was usually mild. Cases are asymptomatic or may report fever, fatigue, body aches, sore throat. The occurrence of these symptoms in a person who has been in a risk area or has been in contact with contaminated birds must be the subject of emergency treatment. In more severe cases, avian influenza can be complicated by pneumonia with high mortality.

“There is no risk for humans to eat poultry or eggs.”

avian influenza virus Spread through contact with infected birds or surfaces and objects contaminated with their feces. To protect yourself and especially to avoid infecting other birds, you must wash your hands regularly, wear a mask and waterproof gloves (when handling dead animals or animal waste). If you’re traveling to (or living in) an area with bird flu, many biosecurity measures are recommended:

  • Avoid high risk areas. The legislation in this case prohibits any transport of birds and imposes strict biosecurity measures in poultry farms: footbaths, autoluves)
  • Avoid direct contact with birds, especially chickens, ducks and wild birds. People with “pet chickens” must confine them under threat of fines to avoid any contact with wild birds;
  • Avoid surfaces contaminated with bird droppings or secretions;
  • observe the rules of hand hygiene and food hygiene.

In addition, France has drawn up a government plan to combat bird flu, which envisages different steps depending on the course of a possible epidemic.

Is It Safe to Eat Chicken and Eggs?

“Yes, assures Jeanne Brugère-Picoux. There is no danger to humans from eating poultry or eggs, even a boiled or raw egg, as the avian flu virus is not dangerous to humans. In addition, in the event of avian influenza, the animals die quickly and the potentially contaminated birds and their products are not marketed.

What are the treatments for bird flu? A vaccine?

“We do not treat this human disease in France as we do elsewhere in Europe,” replies our interlocutor. No bird flu vaccine is approved by the European Commission.

Thanks to Professor Jeanne Brugère-Picoux, veterinarian and member of the National Academy of Medicine.

Sources:

Avian influenza, a disaster for farms, an exceptional risk for humans. Press release from the Academy of Medicine. December 22, 2021.

• bird flu, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Directorate-General for Forestry and Rural Affairs, Directorate-General for Food, July 2006.

Bird flu, Pasteur Institute.

• Avian influenza, avian influenza and the threat of a pandemic: a new topic in occupational safety. INRS.2006.

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