The avian influenza epidemic in Italy, 1999–2000: a review
During 1999, northern Italy has been affected by an epidemic of low pathogenicity avian influenza (LPAI) caused by a virus of the H7N1 subtype. Due to the characteristics of the poultry industry in the area and to the absence of specific legislative tools to eradicate infection, the virus continued to circulate for several months until a highly pathogenic virus of the same subtype emerged. The highly pathogenic virus had caused death, at the time of writing, of over 13 million birds in 3 months. The consequences of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) epidemic appear to be devastating for the poultry industry and the social community. Several conditions generated the current situation, including the high density of susceptible animals and the structure of the poultry industry in the infected area. In addition, the circulation of LPAI virus for a number of months inevitably delayed the prompt identification of HPAI and complicated the interpretation of diagnostic results. A reconsideration of current European legislation and a reorganization of the poultry industry are suggested to prevent the occurrence of similar situations in countries of the European Union.
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