Avian influenza infected zone expands to Pirkanmaa: poultry must be kept indoors

On 25 July 2023, the Finnish Food Authority expanded the infected zone of avian influenza to include Pirkanmaa. It is prohibited to keep poultry or captive birds outdoors in the infected zone. The prohibition also applies to establishments with organic production.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza has been found in several locations in Finland. The expanded infected zone now covers the regions of Uusimaa, Kanta-Häme, Pirkanmaa and Päijät-Häme in addition to the earlier zone of Southwest Finland, Satakunta, South Ostrobothnia, Ostrobothnia, and Central Ostrobothnia. 

Finnish Food Authority’s instructions for action

According to the Finnish Food Authority’s instructions, the following measures must be taken in the infected zone to prevent the spread of the infection:

  • Visits by persons to the housing facilities of poultry and captive birds are prohibited if they are not necessary. 
  • Persons visiting the housing facilities of poultry or captive birds must wear protective clothing used only in the facility concerned and change their footwear when entering and leaving the facility. In addition, they must wash and disinfect their hands when entering the facility. If washing hands is not possible, hands must nevertheless be disinfected.
  • The feed and bedding for birds must be stored in such a way that wild birds do not come into contact with them.

If symptoms of avian influenza, abnormal mortality or changes in production are observed in poultry or other birds, the municipal or provincial veterinarian must be informed immediately. A decline in the consumption of water and feed or in egg production may be a sign of an avian influenza infection.

The prohibition on keeping birds outdoors includes some exemptions (such as birds in zoos). More detailed information on the exemptions can be found on the Finnish Food Authority’s website.

Do not touch dead birds with your bare hands

Mass deaths of wild birds and individual dead birds of prey must also be reported to the municipal or the provincial veterinarian. The municipal veterinarian will take care of sending the required samples to the Helsinki office of the Finnish Food Authority. Individual dead birds other than birds of prey can be reported using the Finnish Food Authority’s online form. 

Even though avian influenza viruses are not easily transmitted to humans, you should not touch dead birds with your bare hands. If you have touched a dead bird, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water and disinfect your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. 

Individual birds that are not sent to be examined may be buried at a depth of at least 40 cm in a location where the risks to human and animal health are minimised. The bird can also be picked up using a shovel, placed in an intact plastic bag, and taken to a mixed waste bin. When doing this, wear disposable gloves, close the bag tightly, and dispose of it in mixed waste. If the bird is in a remote location, you can leave it to decompose.

Avian influenza viruses are not easily transmitted to humans, and being infected usually requires close contact with an infected wild bird or poultry or their secretions.

Text: Raija Lindell
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