Vaccination against bird flu is inevitable. Professor, researcher and poultry veterinarian Sjaak de Wit sees no other path for the future.
However, it may still take a while before that happens. Until then, monitoring, hygiene, limiting run-off and clearing are necessary.
Several dozen companies have been infected with highly pathogenic bird flu since last autumn. Even in the traditionally quiet summer, there are still new outbreaks. Also in various places in the country, and with other virus strains.
Group of viruses persists in nature
A group of highly pathogenic viruses persists in several species of wild birds. According to De Wit, that is the game changer. One virus in one species can die somewhere. With so many species, it jumps easily and can also survive in nature.
Vaccination is therefore – part of the – route, but it is not that easy. In other words, one manufacturer has started to register a vaccine in the European Union. The rules are strict. The vaccine must work, the chickens must remain healthy, and importantly, it must inhibit the spread of the virus. In the Netherlands, trials are underway with one type of vaccine per animal. Elsewhere, a combination of vaccines is being tested. This process is followed by the legal, political and commercial procedure.
Not a cheap solution
The technology has now reached the point where the origin of antibodies can be traced: contamination from nature or through vaccination. For years, that was the argument for stopping vaccination in disease prevention. The registration will take years without a sense of urgency. Fortunately, the Netherlands is not the only country that is struggling with infections with highly pathogenic bird flu.
A solution seems to be in the works, but it is not cheap. With an indigenous disease pressure, professional poultry farming must continue to vaccinate.
Sharp on hygiene
De Wit gives another compliment to the sector: so far there have been few infections from company to company. The sector is keen on hygiene. It should stay that way, pending vaccines.