What is avian influenza?
Avian influenza is a highly contagious viral disease which occurs primarily in poultry and other birds. The European Commission has prepared a detailed list of Questions and Answers on the disease which includes information on the measures taken by the EU to control its spread:
What scientific work has EFSA carried out in relation to avian influenza?
EFSA provides objective scientific advice on all matters with a direct or indirect impact on food and feed safety, including animal health and welfare and plant protection. With respect to avian influenza, EFSA has been active on two levels within its remit: on animal health and welfare and on food safety issues. EFSA’s Panel on Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW) has prepared a Scientific Opinion and Report on the animal health and welfare aspects of avian influenza. Please find a link to our press release through which you can find the full Opinion and Report: http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press_room/press_release/2005/1146.html.
EFSA has also issued a press release on the food safety aspects of avian influenza which is available at:
In view of the developing situation in relation to avian influenza, EFSA’s Scientific Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ) is keeping this issue under constant review. EFSA is also in regular contact and shares information on avian influenza with the European Commission, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and International Organisations.
Will EFSA be carrying out further scientific work on avian influenza in the future?
EFSA will provide further scientific advice with regard to avian influenza over the coming months including: a scientific review of the possible transmission of the virus to other species including humans through the food chain; an opinion on the role that migratory birds play in the spread of the disease amongst animals; and an update to the previous opinion of its AHAW Panel (mentioned above) to take into account any new data.
Can I get avian influenza through eating food?
On present evidence, humans who have acquired the infection have been in direct contact with infected live or dead birds. There is no epidemiological evidence to date that avian influenza can be transmitted to humans through consumption of food, notably poultry and eggs.
What is EFSA’s advice on food safety issues related to avian influenza?
EFSA and other organisations such as the WHO generally support longstanding food safety advice that chicken and eggs be properly cooked in order to protect consumers from possible risks of food poisoning. Thoroughly cooking poultry meat and eggs also eliminates viruses, thereby providing further safety assurance in the unlikely event that H5N1 virus be present in raw poultry products entering the food chain. In order to prevent avian influenza from entering the food chain, the European Commission and EU Member States have put into place strict measures to control imports from affected countries outside the EU and to contain its spread in Member States where the virus has been detected amongst wild and migratory birds.
What about public health aspects of the disease?
Public health aspects of avian influenza are addressed by the European Commission (http://europa.eu.int/comm/food/index_en.htm), the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) (http://www.ecdc.eu.int/) and authorities in the Member States. Public health authorities in the EU are also working in close collaboration with international organisations such as WHO. We would recommend that you contact these organisations for further information on these aspects.
Are there any additional sources of information on avian influenza available from other EU and International organisations?
For media enquiries, please contact:
Alun Jones, Press Officer,
Tel: + 39 0521 036 487