How does avian flu spread? 

The virus that causes avian influenza (avian flu or bird flu) can be spread between animals by direct contact, as an airborne contagion, or through contaminated substances, such as manure. 

What happens if avian flu is found on a poultry farm? 

Which measures are needed to prevent further spread of avian flu are determined based on the individual situation.  More information about veterinary measures for avian flu is available (in Dutch) on the website of the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA)

What organisation finds out which type of avian flu is involved? 

The Dutch Wildlife Health Centre (DWHC) and Wageningen University & Research (WUR) investigate avian flu on poultry farms and in dead wild birds. Erasmus University Medical Center (Erasmus MC) investigates avian flu in live wild birds. The results of these tests show which variant the birds had: highly pathogenic or low pathogenic avian flu. 

Flu vaccine 

In some cases, people who care for the animals or clear away dead birds can be vaccinated with an ordinary flu vaccine. This is the same flu vaccine offered every year. This vaccination does not prevent avian flu, but it does lower the risk that a person could have an avian influenza infection and a normal seasonal flu at the same time. If both infections occur in the same person at the same time, it could lead to a new type of influenza virus. We want to prevent this possibility. Whether a person gets a flu vaccine depends on the circumstances. This is determined individually in each situation. There is no specific vaccination against avian flu. 

What task is assigned to RIVM in the context of avian flu? 

RIVM is responsible for: 

  • surveillance of avian flu in humans. This consists of tracking confirmed cases and monitoring developments. 
  • assessing potential risks to public health. 
  • drafting guidelines, for example for cooperation between the organisations involved in the situation. 

The National Influenza Centre (RIVM) and Erasmus MC conduct tests for surveillance purposes.