The outbreak of a highly pathogenic bird flu has made headlines in South Africa and other countries. Outbreaks have recently affected the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, India and Vietnam.

The Netherlands

In late February, government officials in the Netherlands reported an outbreak of the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus serotype H5N6 on a commercial poultry farm near the city of Oldekerk. This is according to a report from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The report states that the H5N6 subtype is a reassortment linked to H5N8 and not the Asian zoonotic H5N6. The Wageningen University in the Netherlands confirmed that this was a new subtype when it was first reported in December 2017 on a duck farm in Biddinghuizen. Other birds were also affected.

Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia cases of H5N8 bird flu have been reported. This is according to an article by Poultry World.  Saudi Arabia officials have reported 7 more cases of bird flu on farms in the Riyadh province, which killed nearly 38 000 birds. The remaining 450 000 susceptible birds were also destroyed.


In March 2018 the Indian Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare in India reported the detection of the H5N1 strain of bird flu to the OIE. According to the OIE report the bird flu has only been detected in house crows in the city of Pardeep in Orissa state in the eastern part of the country. A total of 173 crows have been killed by the virus, but the source of the outbreak is unknown.


Information received by the OIE late in February, confirmed the detection of the H5N6 serotype of bird flu in Hải Phòng City in Vietnam. This was reported by the Chief Veterinary Officer of the country’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Viêt Nam News recently reported that 3 000 chickens affected with the virus were culled.

The new subtype of highly pathogenic avian influenza, H5N6, as recently reported in the Netherlands was also found in Switzerland, Germany and the UK in 2017. The H5N8 strain was also confirmed in Italy last year. The Vietnam Investment Review reports the spread of bird flu in other Asian countries such as South Korea (H5N6) and China. In China approximately 1 700 people were infected by H7N9 by the end of January 2018, 650 of whom died. Following this the poultry market was closed for 2-3 weeks to limit the spread of the virus. South Africa has also been hit hard by bird flu. The latest update regarding South Africa was by the Department of Agriculture in the Western Cape that reported the spread of the infection to more seabirds such as penguins. –Ursula Human, AgriOrbit