WBVR tests foxes positive for bird flu

Wageningen Bioveterinary Research (WBVR) has diagnosed bird flu in two foxes from the province of Groningen in the Netherland and characterized the viruses as H5N1. The sequences of the avian flu viruses in the foxes are similar to those identified in infected wild birds from the same region. It is therefore likely that the foxes became infected from eating a bird infected with bird flu. The virus found in foxes is not related to the zoonotic HPAI H5N1 strains that have also infected humans in Asia.

H5N1 infections in foxes have been previously observed in other parts of the world and recently in England. Extensive spread of the virus among foxes is unlikely as foxes generally live in families and not in large groups. In addition, an infected fox develops serious symptoms within a few days, which avoids moving for far distances. Therefore, the risk of extensive spread within the foxes is rated as low. The foxes are thought to be unlikely to transmit the virus to other wild animals. However, other wild animals such as seals, dogs and cats are known to be susceptible to bird flu. Recently, HPAI H5N8 virus, to which the HPAI H5N1 virus is genetically related, has been detected in seals in England and Sweden.

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