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#Update: Increase in #Human #Infections with #Avian #Influenza #H7N9 Viruses During the 5th #Epidemic — #China, Oct. ‘16–Aug. 7 ‘17 (@CDCgov, edited)

Title : #Update: Increase in #Human #Infections with #Avian #Influenza #H7N9 Viruses During the 5th #Epidemic — #China, Oct. ‘16–Aug. 7 ‘17....

15 Mar 2017

#Risk #assessment on the likelihood of #spread of #H5N8 #Avian #Influenza associated with racing #pigeons (DEFRA, summary)


Title: #Risk #assessment on the likelihood of #spread of #H5N8 #Avian #Influenza associated with racing #pigeons.

Subject: Avian Influenza, H5N8 subtype, captive birds.

Source: Department of Agriculture of the United Kingdom (DEFRA), full PDF file: (LINK). Summary.

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Risk assessment on the likelihood of spread of H5N8 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza associated with racing pigeons - Qualitative Risk Assessment - March 2017


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Following multiple outbreaks of H5N8 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in domestic poultry and wild birds in the EU and elsewhere in the world, the question was raised as to what risk domestic and international pigeon racing poses with regard to possible introduction and spread of the HPAI virus to, from and between populations of wild birds and captive birds.

On the basis of available information from published literature and official sources, this veterinary risk assessment concludes the following:

  • a) Domestic pigeon racing or training releases in GB We consider there is a medium risk that racing pigeons would be exposed to HPAI infection if they are kept within or released from an area under official disease control restrictions for that disease.
    • This would depend on the level of environmental contamination or the time since the disease control restrictions were put in place as the longer since the last outbreak, and the closer to spring, the lower the environmental contamination would be expected, so this risk should be kept under review.
    • In the current epizootic, where there is a GB wide Prevention Zone in place, there would be a low risk that racing pigeons would be exposed to HPAI infection outside areas under official additional disease control restrictions for AI (ie where an outbreak or an infected wild bird area has been identified).
    • Racing pigeons generally won’t have frequent contact with wild birds.
    • There is a low risk that pigeons would become infected and infectious following exposure to H5N8 HPAI.
    • The gathering and basketing of pigeons for training or racing could be a route for spreading infection between lofts, should birds become infectious.
  • b) UK racing pigeons flying back from races starting in other EU countries
    • The risk that racing pigeons would be exposed to HPAI infection while overflying areas of other Member States under disease control restrictions imposed under EU rules is considered to be medium depending on the level of environmental contamination and whether the birds land to eat, rest or drink.
    • There is a low risk that pigeons would become infected and infectious following exposure to H5N8 HPAI.
    • There is a higher risk of being exposed than of becoming “infected and infectious” because pigeons are considered to be less susceptible to infection with avian influenza viruses which are adapted to wild waterfowl.
  • c) Risk of pigeons transmitting avian influenza to other poultry or captive birds
    • There is a very low risk that racing pigeons become infected when resting, feeding or drinking, while flying over areas where avian influenza has been detected and then carry infection back to poultry farms or other captive birds, because such racing birds are trained to return to their own loft and rarely stray onto poultry farms.
    • If racing pigeons are colocated with poultry, there is no greater risk to the poultry as the risk from contact with wild birds is already low to medium.
    • There is a higher likelihood that pigeons could be exposed to avian influenza viruses including HPAI while transiting such areas, however currently available evidence suggests that pigeons appear to be less susceptible to infection than many other species of birds and are ineffective propagators and disseminators of virus (EFSA, 2008; Abolnik, 2014).
    • Movements of captive birds including pigeons from areas free from restrictions are subject to Community rules.
    • Potential risks of illegal movements of racing pigeons from restricted areas should be addressed by adequate enforcement of national and EU legislation during disease outbreaks.
    • There is a level of uncertainty about HPAI infection in pigeons. However, we are not aware of more than a very few isolations of HPAI viruses from feral pigeons in areas affected by disease outbreaks.
    • Whilst HPAI is notifiable in all captive birds including racing pigeons in the EU, we are not aware of any reports of the disease being confirmed in racing pigeons in the European Union during the current epizootic.
    • However there have been seven outbreaks (out of 550, where the poultry species involved is known) in farmed pigeons, which may be a different breed to racing pigeons and may have different level of contact with contacts with other poultry.
    • Of these seven outbreaks, two had high morbidity and four had high case fatality rates. The conclusions of this risk assessment reflect current knowledge but will remain subject to review should further scientific information on the HPAI infection in pigeons become available, or should disease be confirmed in racing pigeons.
    • The implementation of the Higher Risk Areas in parts of England is not aimed at pigeon keeping or pigeon racing. Racing pigeons may still be flown outdoors for exercise.



Keywords: UK; Updates; Avian Influenza; H5N8; Captive Birds.