Highly pathogenic avian influenza subtype H5Nx clade outbreaks in Dutch poultry farms, 2014–2018: Clinical signs and mortality

Janneke Schreuder, Thijs T.M. Manders, Armin R.W. Elbers, Arco N. van der Spek, Ruth J. Bouwstra, Arjan Stegeman, Francisca C. Velkers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


In recent years, different subtypes of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses caused outbreaks in several poultry types worldwide. Early detection of HPAI virus infection is crucial to reduce virus spread. Previously, the use of a mortality ratio threshold to expedite notification of suspicion in layer farms was proposed. The purpose of this study was to describe the clinical signs reported in the early stages of HPAI H5N8 and H5N6 outbreaks on chicken and Pekin duck farms between 2014 and 2018 in the Netherlands and compare them with the onset of an increased mortality ratio (MR). Data on daily mortality and clinical signs from nine egg-producing chicken farms and seven Pekin duck farms infected with HPAI H5N8 (2014 and 2016) and H5N6 (2017–2018) in the Netherlands were analysed. In 12 out of 15 outbreaks for which a MR was available, MR increase preceded or coincided with the first observation of clinical signs by the farmer. In one chicken and two Pekin duck outbreaks, clinical signs were observed prior to MR increase. On all farms, veterinarians observed clinical signs of general disease. Nervous or locomotor signs were reported in all Pekin duck outbreaks, but only in two chicken outbreaks. Other clinical signs were observed less frequently in both chickens and Pekin ducks. Compared to veterinarians, farmers observed and reported clinical signs, especially respiratory and gastrointestinal signs, less frequently. This case series suggests that a MR with a set threshold could be an objective parameter to detect HPAI infection on chicken and Pekin duck farms at an early stage. Observation of clinical signs may provide additional indication for farmers and veterinarians for notifying a clinical suspicion of HPAI infection. Further assessment and validation of a MR threshold in Pekin ducks are important as it could serve as an important tool in HPAI surveillance programs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-97
JournalTransboundary and Emerging Diseases
Issue number1
Early online date17 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • H5N6 subtype
  • H5N8 subtype
  • influenza A virus
  • mortality
  • poultry
  • signs and symptoms


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