Effect of 2020-21 and 2021-22 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5 Epidemics on Wild Birds, the Netherlands

The number of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5-related infections and deaths of wild birds in Europe was high during October 1, 2020-September 30, 2022. To quantify deaths among wild species groups with known susceptibility for HPAI H5 during those epidemics, we collected and recorded mortality data of wild birds in the Netherlands. HPAI virus infection was reported in 51 bird species. The species with the highest numbers of reported dead and infected birds varied per epidemic year; in 2020-21, they were within the Anatidae family, in particular barnacle geese (Branta leucopsis) and in 2021-22, they were within the sea bird group, particularly Sandwich terns (Thalasseus sandvicensis) and northern gannet (Morus bassanus). Because of the difficulty of anticipating and modeling the future trends of HPAI among wild birds, we recommend monitoring live and dead wild birds as a tool for surveillance of the changing dynamics of HPAI.