The role of hunters and foresters in combating the spread of avian influenza

The role of hunters and foresters in combating the spread of avian influenza

On 10 November 2020, Italian Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Sergio Berlato of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:

“On 4 November 2020, the Italian regional authorities received a note from the Ministry of Health Directorate-General for Animal Health and Veterinary Medicines, informing them of a highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak in the Netherlands. In the same note, the Directorate-General requested that authorisation be suspended for the use of live decoys in the hunting of birds belonging to the orders Anseriformes and Charadriiformes. Member States in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health have recognised that hunters and foresters play an important role in combating the spread of avian influenza.

Can the Commission therefore answer the following questions:

1. Does it not agree that it would be more efficient to include hunters as key players in the land monitoring operation to help with the early detection of the virus in wildlife, both by providing the authorities with a sample of the birds shot down and by carrying out regular veterinary checks on their live decoys in order to ascertain their health status and whether or not they may have contracted the virus from wildlife?

2. Does the Commission not agree that collaboration with hunters could be a useful way of monitoring the territory and detecting the avian influenza virus in good time?”

On 28 January 2021, Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “It is without any doubt that hunters can play a significant role in the early detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in wild birds. This role is recognised by EU legislation where collaboration of the competent authorities in the Member States with hunting organisations is required to ensure the notification without delay of any abnormal mortality or significant disease occurring in wild birds and in particular wild water birds.

There is a possibility for the competent authority to authorise, for example, in the framework of a surveillance programme for avian influenza and depending on the assessment of the epidemiological situation, by way of derogation from a general prohibition, the use of decoy birds of the orders Aseriformes and Charadriiformes in high risk areas, which are the areas of territory that are at particular risk for the introduction of HPAI viruses into holdings.

The European Food Safety Authority indicates passive surveillance of wild birds as the appropriate method for HPAI surveillance in wild birds if the HPAI infection is associated with mortality, whereas active surveillance of wild birds has shown very low efficiency in detecting HPAI.”


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