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Keywords:

  • Avian influenza;
  • live poultry;
  • risk assessment;
  • Spain;
  • trade

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is considered one of the most important diseases of poultry. During the last 9 years, HPAI epidemics have been reported in Asia, the Americas, Africa, and in 18 countries of the European Union (EU). For that reason, it is possible that the risk for HPAI virus (HPAIV) introduction into Spain may have recently increased. Because of the EU free-trade policy and because legal trade of live poultry was considered an important route for HPAI spread in certain regions of the world, there are fears that Spain may become HPAIV-infected as a consequence of the legal introduction of live poultry. However, no quantitative assessment of the risk for HPAIV introduction into Spain or into any other EU member state via the trade of poultry has been published in the peer-reviewed literature. This article presents the results of the first quantitative assessment of the risk for HPAIV introduction into a free country via legal trade of live poultry, along with estimates of the geographical variation of the risk and of the relative contribution of exporting countries and susceptible poultry species to the risk. The annual mean risk for HPAI introduction into Spain was estimated to be as low as 1.36 × 10−3, suggesting that under prevailing conditions, introduction of HPAIV into Spain through the trade of live poultry is unlikely to occur. Moreover, these results support the hypothesis that legal trade of live poultry does not impose a significant risk for the spread of HPAI into EU member states.