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Special Eurobarometer : Avian Influenza

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  • Special Eurobarometer : Avian Influenza

    The recent spread of the H5N1 strain of the Avian influenza virus1, which erupted in South-
    East Asia in 2003, is the most serious and most international outbreak of its kind ever
    reported. Since August 2005, the epizootic, which affects both domestic poultry and wild
    birds (mostly water fowl), has spread from Asia to Siberia, Europe, the Middle East and
    Africa. The virus does not transmit efficiently to humans, but it has caused around 150
    deaths around the globe; the people infected had been in very close contact with infected
    birds, mostly backyard poultry flocks or had cared for a family member infected with the
    The virus spread to the European Union in February 2006 through the migration of infected
    swans. As at July 2006, it had been confirmed in wild birds in 13 Member States (in
    chronological order Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Hungary, Austria, Germany, France, Slovakia,
    Sweden, Poland, Denmark, Czech Republic and UK) and in domestic poultry in 5 Member
    States (in chronological order France, Sweden, Germany, Denmark and Hungary). Although
    there has been a steady decline in the number of cases since April, a number of domestic
    poultry farms were infected in Hungary as recently as June. The threat of avian influenza is
    therefore by no means over and there is also a likelihood that the virus could re-emerge in
    various European countries after the summer, with the new migratory season.
    Avian influenza is not a new threat and specific EU legislation is in place detailing the
    measures that Member States have to take to contain outbreaks. With the rapid spread of
    the virus with migratory birds, an additional legislative framework has been put in place to
    enable the competent authorities to react very rapidly.
    This legislation sets out rules on monitoring, control and eradication measures that must be
    taken in the event of a highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak. It also provides for
    preventive vaccination against avian influenza and gives the Commission full flexibility to
    adopt ad hoc measures as it is impossible to provide for every possible scenario in advance.
    Before being adopted by the Commission, such measures must be agreed on by Member
    States within the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH)2.
    The Directorate General for Health and Consumer Protection (DG SANCO) Commissioned the
    present Eurobarometer study, which was conducted among 24,693 respondents in
    the 25 Member States3, two acceding countries (Bulgaria and Romania), and two
    candidate countries (Croatia and Turkey).
    This study has three fundamental objectives:
    ? To determine the level of knowledge of citizens regarding the health risks linked to
    avian influenza;
    ? To determine the level of knowledge of citizens regarding policies implemented to
    fight the spread of the virus;
    ? To obtain a better understanding of declared and planned changes in consumer
    behaviour as a consequence of the virus outbreak.
    1 Commonly known as ?Bird flu?
    3 The area of Cyprus not controlled by the government of the Republic of Cyprus was also included in the survey.
    - 4 -
    The report presents the main results of the survey. For each of the themes, results are
    analysed in terms of the European average and, if necessary, evaluated at national level.
    When necessary, several brief comments are added on the basis of the social-demographic
    variables of respondents.4
    The study was conducted between 27 March and 1 May 2006 in the 25 Member States,
    acceding countries and candidate countries. Media coverage of avian influenza had decreased
    when the survey data were compiled and we therefore consider that no particular event that
    could have had a significant impact on public opinion occurred during the fieldwork period.
    More details about methodology can be found in the Technical Note.