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Avian flu virus in fur farm outbreak adapted to mammals
A total of 27 fur farms were affected by avian flu during the outbreak last year.
Research into Finnish outbreak revealed genetic adaptations.

The vulnerability of fur farms to avian influenza viruses could increase the virus’ pandemic potential, a new study has suggested.

Between July and October 2023, the H5N1 strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) was confirmed in fur animals on 27 fur farms in Finland.

Although some of the infected mammals were asymptomatic, in others it caused fatal pneumonia and meningitis. Neurological symptoms were more common than respiratory symptoms.

In response to the outbreak, authorities in Finland quickly implemented control measures, including culling infected animals and introducing stronger biosecurity requirements on fur farms.

Analysing virus samples, the researchers found that the outbreak was likely caused by large-scale direct exposure to infected wild birds. According to the researchers, this highlights the importance of robust biosecurity measures.

The analysis also revealed genetic mutations which are associated with increased adaptability to mammals. During the outbreak, there was likely transmission of the virus between fur animals.

The genetic adaptions mean that outbreaks in fur farms could potentially pose a future risk to human health, the researchers suggest.

The study concluded: ‘Although prevention of outbreaks is the main target, improving preparedness and response capacity of both fur farms and authorities is essential, as well as being alert for any increase in mortality on the farms.

‘Virological surveillance designed for early detection of outbreaks is an essential part of disease control and we recommend active monitoring, especially when HPAI is found in bird populations in the vicinity of animal farms.

‘The importance of implementing safer fur farming practices is highlighted by the observations of genetic changes during the outbreak associated with mammalian adaptation, which may increase the pandemic potential of the circulating avian influenza viruses.’

The study has been published in the journal Eurosurveillance.

Image © Shutterstock

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Special imports digital service set to change

News Story 1
 From Monday, 15 July, Special Import Certificate (SIC) applications will only be accepted via the Veterinary Medicines Directorate's (VMD's) new special imports digital service.

The original online special import scheme will be decommissioned. The VMD says that the new service is easier to use, more secure and reliable, and meets accessibility legislation.

The VMD is urging veterinary surgeons who have not yet signed up for the new service to do so before 15 July. The new digital service can be accessed here

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News Shorts
RCVS course explains concerns process

A free, online course from the RCVS Academy has been launched, designed to clarify RCVS' concerns procedure.

The content will give veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses a better understanding of the process, and what they can expect if a concern is raised about them. It includes details of common concerns.

The interactive resource has been developed in collaboration with Clare Stringfellow, case manager in the RCVS Professional Conduct Team.

Ms Stringfellow said: "We appreciate that concerns can be very worrying, and we hope that, through this course, we can give vets and nurses a better understanding of the process and how to obtain additional support."

The course can be accessed via the RCVS Academy. Users are encouraged to record their learning for CPD.