For the first time in Brandenburg, the avian influenza pathogen H5N1 was detected in a dead wild bird in the summer – and also in an animal that does not actually occur in this country. As the Potsdam Ministry of Health announced on Tuesday, the dead bird – a large gannet – had already been found at the end of last week in the Reppinichen district of the Wiesenburg municipality in the Potsdam Mittelmark district.
“So far, such cases have usually only occurred during bird migration,” said ministry spokesman Dominik Lenz to the Tagesspiegel. “But it was already feared that avian influenza would also strike in summer.”
What is particularly strange, however, is that gannets are pure seabirds that live neither in Brandenburg nor in Berlin, as the Senate Wildlife Commissioner, Derk Ehlert, says: “They don’t exist here, they live exclusively by the sea and feed on fish. Even ornithologists have no explanation as to how the northern gannet came to Potsdam-Mittelmark.
Most suspect that the animal may have lost its sense of direction due to the disease or instinctively wanted to flee the virus. According to the Wadden Sea National Park, gannets infected with bird flu have been found in many places on Schleswig-Holstein’s west coast since mid-June, especially on the beaches of Sylt, Amrum and Föhr.
In the only German gannet colony on the island of Helgoland, many animals also died of H5N1. However, the greatest losses were in Great Britain, as reported by the spokeswoman for the Friedrich Loeffler Institute for Animal Health, Elke Reinking.
The sandwich terns are also affected: Since the beginning of June, entire breeding colonies have been wiped out by the bird flu virus in northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Mass deaths also occurred in the German Wadden Sea – largely unnoticed by the public. In the breeding colonies on the Hallig Norderoog alone, 400 dead adult birds and 1,500 dead young birds are said to have been found by August 9 of this year.
There have been bird flu outbreaks before, but not in the summer, experts warn and fear corresponding mutations in H5N1. There is therefore a great danger not only for wild birds, according to a statement from the Brandenburg Ministry of Health. Several laying hen stocks in Lower Saxony are already affected.
Poultry farmers in Brandenburg should therefore consistently observe the safety measures, said State Secretary for Consumer Protection Anna Heyer-Stuffer: “Avian influenza no longer seems to be a seasonal event”. Rather, an outbreak must now be expected throughout the year.