improvement in France, what are the risks for humans?

AVIAN INFLUENZA 2022. The situation linked to the avian influenza epizootic in France is improving “significantly”, announces the Ministry of Agriculture. What is avian “flu” or rather “avian plague”? What are the risks for humans? Lighting with Pr Jeanne Brugère-Picoux, veterinarian and member of the National Academy of Medicine.

[Mise à jour le 10 mai 2022 à 09h40] Bird flu or better “bird flu” it’s a animal diseases caused by A strains of the influenza virus. We are talking about “epizootic“how is a epidemic affecting animals. It is an infectious, viral, highly contagious disease affecting domestic and wild birds which can, depending on the strain, be transmitted to human beings, without necessarily making them sick. “The situation relating to the avian influenza epizootic that France has been experiencing since autumn 2021 is clearly improving” This was announced by the Ministry of Agriculture in a press release dated May 10, 2022. It decides to lower the level of risk and to revoke the obligation to shelter poultry on a large part of the territory. At the same time, a vaccine experiment on palmipeds has begun. France lists, from 6 May, 1374 outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in breeding since the outbreak of the epizootic last November; to limit its spread, 16 million poultry were slaughtered, of which nearly 11 million in Great West (Pays de la Loire, Brittany). What is avian flu? A flu like the one you can get in the winter? What precautions to take ? What risks to humans if animals are contaminated? How come this transmission ? Lighting.

How many cases of bird flu in France?

France lists, from 6 May, 1374 outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in breeding since the outbreak of the epizootic last November; to limit its spread, 16 million poultry were slaughtered, of which nearly 11 million in Great West (Pays de la Loire, Brittany).

“We have never had such a dramatic epizootic”

The entire metropolitan area was placed at “high” risk on 5 November. This the risk is reduced to “moderate” in some departments from 10 May, This was announced by the Ministry of Agriculture in a press release as “the situation regarding the avian influenza epizootic is clearly improving”. He stays “raised” In another. “We have never had such a dramatic epizootic, the virus has become very pathogenic, Professor Jeanne Brugère-Picoux, veterinarian and member of the National Academy of Medicine reacts immediately, but underlines that “The epidemic is slowing down”. The main problem is to succeed stop the progression of the virus and above all to avoid contamination of chicken, turkey, etc. farms. 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 “because there are not the same risk factors as in Asia, where contamination has been observed (live poultry market at risk of infection, precarious conditions with significant coexistence with uncontrolled poultry, persistence of the virus …) “ continues the specialist. In France, the protection of poultry is essential in the face of the exceptional risk to humans. It is based on drastic biosecurity measures. In Europe, 36 countries were affected by the highly pathogenic avian influenza epizootic 2021-2022.

New risk levels for highly pathogenic avian influenza in mainland France as of 10 May 2022 © Ministry of Agriculture

What is avian flu?

bird flu or better avian “plague” is a disease caused by avian influenza virus (A) highly pathogenic (HPAI). It is a virus influenza virus family. We talk like this in a certain sense inadequate “bird flu” while, in birds, it is a disease characterized by a sepsis associated with encephalitis, And not from a predominantly respiratory condition like human flu. “The the chicken plague virus was discovered in 1959 and the first case officer we had France only happened in 2006 ” underlines Jeanne Brugère-Picoux. This disease is particularly contagious and the the virus can also be carried by the wind from building to building. Many wild bird species, particularly those that live in wetlands and aquatic environments, are home to influenza viruses. Anseriformes (especially ducks, geese and swans) and charadriiformes (such as gulls, terns and waders) are the main natural reservoir for the avian plague virus. The infection can decimate an entire flock in less than 48 hours.

“If humans can be infected with the bird plague virus, they are not necessarily sick.”

Is avian flu transmissible to humans?

transmission of avian influenza
Avian influenza virus transmission cycle © Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries

“No human cases linked to HPAI virus contamination have been observed so far in France” recalled the Academy of Medicine in a December 2021 statement. Worldwide, cases of HPAI H5N1 viruses have been identified in humans as well as deaths (455 deaths between 2003 and 2019, none in 2020 and 2021) but remained very rare and have been observed in people who have had close contact with infected poultry or with objects contaminated by their excrement. Furthermore, “if man can be infected with the avian plague virus, he is not necessarily sick”, underlines Jeanne Brugère-Picoux. Humans are not receptive to this virus in the first cells of the respiratory system, it is necessary to reach the alveoli for there to be a serological reaction with this virus, that is, at the level of the deep respiratory system. At this time, you will have a serological reaction but not necessarily a disease. If we breathe in some of the virus present in feathers during the plague, 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 avian influenza A virus strains, four caused infections in humans: H5N1, H7N3, H7N7 and H9N2.

What are the risks of bird flu for humans?

“The avian plague virus is very pathogenic to animals, not humans” our interlocutor continues. We recall (again) that in France no human cases linked to HPAI virus contamination have so far been observed. “There is nothing to worry about for humans in relation to the avian plague outbreaks recorded in France, reassures Jeanne Brugère-Picoux. The problem is mainly protect yourself so as not to contaminate other farms. ” At the end, “There has never been an adaptation of the avian influenza virus to humans with human-to-human transmission. This disease was not classified as a zoonosis before the “avian flu” crisis caused by the HPAI virus of type H5N1 of Asian origin discovered in Asia in 1996 “.

What are the symptoms of bird flu?

In the rare cases of human-transmitted avian plague, the disease was mostly mild. Cases are asymptomatic or may report fever, fatigue, muscle aches, sore throat. The appearance of these symptoms in a person who has stayed in a risk area or who has been in contact with contaminated birds must be treated urgently. In severe cases, chicken plague can be complicated by pneumonia with high mortality.

“There is no risk of humans eating poultry or eggs.”

Avian plague virus spread by contact with infected birds or surfaces and objects contaminated by their excrement. To protect yourself and above all to avoid contaminating other birds, it is necessary to wash your hands regularly, wear a mask and waterproof gloves (when handling dead animals or animal excrement). If you travel (or live) to an area with bird flu, many biosecurity measures are recommended:

  • avoid high-risk areas. In this case, the legislation prohibits any transport of birds and imposes strict biosecurity measures in poultry farms: foot baths, autoluve)
  • avoid direct contact with birds, especially hens, chickens, ducks and wild birds; people with “pet hens” must confine them to avoid any contact with wild birds under penalty of fine;
  • avoid surfaces contaminated with bird droppings or secretions;
  • observe the rules of hand hygiene and food hygiene.

Furthermore, France has put in place a government plan to combat avian flu with different steps to follow depending on the progress of a possible epidemic.

Is it safe to eat chicken and eggs?

“Yup, assures Jeanne Brugère-Picoux. There is no risk for humans to eat poultry or eggs, even a hard-boiled or raw egg because the avian flu virus is not dangerous to humans. Furthermore, in the event of avian plague, animals die quickly and birds that may have been contaminated and their products are not marketed.

What are the treatments for bird flu? A vaccine?

“We do not cure this disease in humans in France as in Europe elsewhere”, replies our interlocutor. No avian flu vaccine is authorized by the European Commission.

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

Sources:

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

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

Avian flu, Institut Pasteur.

• Bird flu, bird flu and the threat of a pandemic: a new issue in occupational health. INRS. 2006.

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