HEALTH FOR ANIMALS | Avian Influenza | March 2022

HEALTH FOR ANIMALS | Avian Influenza | March 2022

HEALTH FOR ANIMALS | Avian Influenza | March 2022

The Rise of Avian Influenza

So far, 2022 has been a deadly year for the world’s birds. Avian influenza continues to rise, and this is hot on the heels of two years that the U.S. CDC says saw more outbreaks than the previous four years combined.

Each outbreak of avian influenza can have huge ramifications for animal and human welfare. And, of course, a devastating impact on the economy and global food security. Just a single outbreak in the Netherlands in 2003 cost an estimated 150 million euros and the culling of some 30 million birds. Right now, other countries – like the UK – are facing similar losses.

In this newsletter, we discuss the current spread of avian influenza and the evolving discussion on vaccination.

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Biosecurity and hygiene is currently the first line of defence against avian influenza in most countries. While this can limit exposure, this is not fool proof as outbreaks grow in size and scope each year.

The U.S. CDC has reported that globally “there were more outbreaks reported in 2020-2021 than in the previous four years combined.” What’s more, viruses are cropping up in countries that have been clear of avian influenza for many years – like Canada. The CDC reports that, in December 2021, HPAI A (H5N1) viruses were detected in birds in Newfoundland. This is the first identification of this virus in the Americas since June 2015.

Vaccines have been considered as a potential control measure against avian influenza, but these are often not widely available or used in many markets. There has been some recent discussion about re-evaluating vaccination though. Let’s take a look…



Vaccines are often not used due to concerns about trade disruptions. In the past, export bans have been enforced on countries with vaccination policies. This is due to concerns such as not being able to differentiate vaccinated animals from infected animals, which occurs if a vaccine is not a ‘DIVA vaccine‘. However, some are discussing whether there may be scope for vaccination in the future.

  • Here’s why:
    The loss of millions of birds is a significant welfare issue that requires considering all avenues of prevention.
  • The Poultry Veterinary Study Group of the EU published a paper in October calling for an ‘open-minded evaluation’ of vaccines, saying it would ‘offer better protection to poultry’.
  • The French minister of agriculture sees vaccination as a long-term, viable solution in the face of rising losses.

Though it may be too late to mitigate the impact of the current outbreaks, vaccination could become a future prevention measure alongside alongside biosecurity and other tools.



There is “no other solution in the long term than to have vaccination.” 

Julien Denormandie, French agriculture minister


Last week, HealthforAnimals appointed Kristin Peck, CEO of Zoetis, to serve a two-year term as the Association President. She was selected by her peers from across the Animal Health world who sit on the HealthforAnimals Board and help guide the organization.

Ms. Peck, after receiving the honor, spotlighted the value and role of animal health, which she said “has never been more essential and evident”, pointing out that “the world’s toughest challenges, from zoonotic disease to sustainability, require strengthening animal health.”


The infographic below illustrates the impact of avian influenza in 2021.

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