Avian influenza, also known as bird flu, is a virus found in birds that has manifested in numerous forms. It predominantly spreads from one bird to another, but can in some cases be contracted by humans. In humans, the virus can cause a severe disease, which can at its worst be terminal.
Avian influenza A(H5N8)
The cases of bird flu observed at poultry farms in Germany, the UK and the Netherlands in late 2014 have all been the H5N8 subtype. The H5N8 subtype, which has previously only been observed in Asia, is believed to have spread to Europe with migrating birds.
As of yet, the disease has only spread between animals, and no human infections have been observed.
- Extremely low risk to general public related to outbreaks of avian influenza A(H5N8) in poultry holdings in Europe (ECDC 21.11.2014)
Avian influenza A(H5N1)
The H5N1 avian influenza epidemic broke out in Southeast Asia at the end of 2003. It then spread to Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa. The virus has intermittently also been found in Europe.
In addition to birds, the H5N1 avian influenza virus has also been contracted by humans. The virus has not been found in Finland.
Avian influenza A(H7N9)
The disease caused by avian influenza virus A(H7N9) has been found in China starting March 2013.
As of yet, there is no proof that the virus causes chains of infections from one human to another. The risk of the disease spreading worldwide is considered minor.
Current information on avian influenza from international sources:
1. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)
2. World Health Organization (WHO): Avian influenza A(H7N9) virus
3. The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Finland's National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) has drawn up instructions for persons travelling to areas where A(H7N9) avian influenza has been found.
Responsibility of authorities
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is responsible for planning, advising and monitoring related to the prevention of infectious diseases in Finland.
The National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) monitors the incidences of infectious diseases among humans and provides guidelines for healthcare professionals.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry sees to the enactment of the Animal Diseases Act and EU regulations, as well as monitors compliance with these.
The Finnish Food Authority guides and monitors national prevention of animal diseases.
Regional State Administrative Agencies are responsible for the local management and monitoring of the prevention of infectious diseases.
Hospital districts act as experts for infectious diseases among humans. For further information on infectious diseases and guidance on the matter, citizens should contact their local healthcare centre.