Policy-oriented research
Project summary

NEW-FLUBIRD will establish a European network of virologists and ornithologists, data managers, epidemiologists and modellers, in order to provide “early warning and risk assessment systems” in real time for the threat posed to animal and human health by avian influenza (AI) viruses from migratory birds. The network will largely build on, and extend existing collaborations between AI virologists in Europe on the one hand and international ornithological organizations active within and outside Europe on the other hand, which have been established in the framework of the FP5 – NOVAFLU, the FP6-EDEN, the French MigrAv project, the regional Technical Cooperation Programmes of FAO for Africa, Middle East and Eastern Europe and the pending NIH-CRISP project. It will thus cover the major flyways of migratory birds over Europe and the areas from which migratory birds in Europe migrate, like Eurasia and large parts of Africa. Virological studies will focus on real time monitoring of both low- and highly pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI and HPAI) viruses in migratory birds along their flyways and sites of future die-offs, in close collaboration with the ornithological studies. Furthermore it will focus on experimental infection of selected migratory bird species with HPAI virus H5N1 and possibly other relevant HPAI viruses, to determine pathogenesis and excretion profiles. In turn, the ornithological studies will construct migratory route maps and set up systematic sampling from healthy wild migratory birds thus providing insight in volume and timing of migration as well as key sites of those migratory bird species that pose the highest risk of transmitting HPAI viruses to poultry in Europe. Furthermore it will set up monitoring of mortality, to pick up unusual mortality as one of the first signs of the introduction of avian influenza viruses. All data from virological, epidemiological and ornithological studies will be brought together, digested and integrated by data managers, epidemiologists and modellers, in order to provide the requested “early warning and risk assessment systems” in real time.

Emergency sampling activities recently started by CIRAD and Wetlands International (WI) under the Umbrella of FAO in the framework of 5 regional TCP’s on ‘Emergency Assistance for Early Detection and Prevention of Avian Influenza’ in the flyway systems relevant to Europe have made a start with establishing capacity for sampling for AI in wild birds and this capacity will be further developed through these TCP’s. Links with these initiatives are optimally warranted by the leading role of partners 2 (WI) and 10 (CIRAD) in this work. Current work by WI under contract of EU DG Environment on “Urgent preliminary assessment of ornithological data relevant to spread of Avian Influenza in Europe” and the involvement in the EFSA working group on migratory birds and their possible role in the spread of HPAI, will provide a firm basis for the development of an early warning system under this NEW FLUBIRD initiative. The extensive network of individuals and organisations in the field of water bird monitoring run by WI in the framework of the International Water bird Census represents a very strong link to the ornithological community. NEW-FLUBIRD will closely liaise with the relevant EU and other international organizations as well as policymakers involved in the combat of animal and human influenza threats posed by AI viruses from migratory birds. It will also liaise with the UNEP-CBD endorsed and UNEP-CMS lead Scientific Task Force Avian Influenza, through the membership of partner 2 of this taskforce.

Finally, NEW-FLUBIRD will seek integration with global early warning systems developments like GLEWS of FAO and WHO (Global Early Warning System) and GNAIS of WCS (Global
Network for Avian Influenza Surveillance). GLEWS currently is lacking a wild bird/biodiversity component for which the proposed GNAIS is seeking to provide a solution. NEW-FLUBIRD will be the European contribution to GNAIS and as such become an integral part of the GLEWS lead on by FAO and WHO. Within six months after the start of the project a meeting with all the project participants and other stakeholders will be held, to optimize all existing and newly established collaborations and efforts in this field to come to integration of the data. In this way, optimal “early warning and risk assessment systems” for the European region will be obtained, taking also into account developments outside this region.