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The Netherlands has said that there was an Omicron variant in the country more than 10 years ago, meaning it was already present in the Netherlands before the first bird flu death this year.
An Omicron variant, OTD, is a strain of avian flu that does not pose a human risk.
But the Dutch national veterinary services said the Omicron variant had been known for more than 15 years but went unrecognised until a high proportion of birds died of the viral infection in September, notably on five Dutch islands.
Although bird flu outbreaks are common in Europe, where any non-native bird flu can spread easily from one county to another, such types of flu are rarely deadly.
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Some 13.3% of the carcasses tested by the NVS on the Netherlands’ Arrigaen islands this year were found to be carrying the virus, said an agency spokeswoman, Nony Welz.
During an outbreak on the islands in 2008 the NVS initially found avian flu, which was later confirmed as OTD, but did not alert health authorities, Welz said.
The NVS concluded that the first confirmed death this year had occurred two years after OTD first appeared in 2003, leading to the death of 4,000 birds in June, according to Welz.
The Netherlands is in the midst of what has been its most severe outbreak of bird flu in a decade, with the death toll so far at 191 in June and August, including 128 poultry farms and 41 duck flocks.
Bird flu has emerged as a major threat to the world economy, threatening millions of birds on farms around the world and threatening more than a million tonnes of poultry and egg production in the Netherlands and elsewhere.
More than 40 countries have reported outbreaks of either H5N8 or H7N9 avian flu in the past year. The worst outbreaks occurred in China and Vietnam.
• This article was amended on 18 October 2018. The original said Dutch authorities had not notified health authorities about the first outbreak of avian flu last year. This has been corrected.