Sunday, December 10, 2023

An update on avian influenza outbreaks around the world

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By Barbara Olejnik

Poultry Times staff

GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza continue to beleaguer poultry in countries across the world.

In China, an outbreak of the H7N9 strain occurred in peacocks at a zoo in the city of Jinzhou in Liaoning province. This outbreak is the first of that strain in China since May 2018, which involved a layer farm, also in Liaoning province.

Following the outbreak, local authorities in accordance with plans and requirements for prevention and control, culled 191 birds.

China, during the summer of 2017, saw the biggest H7N9 outbreaks in humans on record. As a result, China ordered the emergency nationwide deployment of a new, experimental poultry vaccine targeting H5 and H7 viruses.

This has resulted in a drastically reduced spread of the virus in poultry and no infections reported in people since September 2017.

According to a report from the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy at the University of Minnesota, Chinese researchers have found that the vaccine provided complete protection against the more highly pathogenic form of the H7N9 virus.

In Nepal, the agriculture ministry has reported three outbreaks, beginning March 7, of the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain, two in commercial layer flocks and one in backyard birds.

A total of 2,518 birds of 32,993 susceptible birds from the three locations were killed by the virus and the surviving poultry were culled.

Iraq reported a highly pathogenic H5N8 outbreak in poultry at a livestock market in Basrah, its first since July 2018, according to a report from the World Organization of Animal Health (OIE).

The virus killed 2,000 of 5,000 susceptible birds and the rest were culled to curb spread of the disease.

CIDRAP reports that an investigation found that the introduction of new live animals and illegal movement of animals were among the likely sources of the outbreak.

H5 strains of highly pathogenic avian influenza have also affected poultry in Bulgaria, Taiwan and South Africa, according to OIE.

In Bulgaria, H5 avian flu sickened 20 birds among a flock of 3,200 poultry near the city of Lovech with official planning to cull the flock to prevent disease spread.

Officials in Taiwan reported two H5N2 outbreaks on chicken farms on the west side of the island in Yunlin and Changhua counties. The virus killed 82 of 53,103 susceptible birds and the surviving poultry was euthanized.

South African officials have confirmed H5N8 on a commercial ostrich farm in the province of Free State. They reported 75 infections among 4,372 susceptible ostriches and plan to cull the flock.

In Cambodia, surveillance of live-bird markets turned up low pathogenic H7N4 strains in ducks at three markets in different locations. The markets were in Phnom Penh, Prey Veng and Takeo, all in the south of the country.

Vaccine advisors for OIE have recently recommended a candidate vaccine virus against H7N4 for pandemic preparedness purposes.

The United States, to date in 2019, has escaped any new outbreaks of either the highly pathogenic or low pathogenic  strains of avian influenza.

To assist in keeping the virus from U.S. flocks, USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service has implemented a Defend the Flock education program.

Through the Defend the Flock program, APHIS is encouraging and preparing all poultry owners, including backyard growers, to implement diligent biosecurity practices.

The program offers checklists and other tools, videos, webinars and educational resources to help growers keep flocks safe and healthy.

APHIS notes that biosecurity is the key to keeping the nation’s poultry healthy. It’s a responsibility that all share. “Working together, we can defend all flocks from avian influenza and other infectious diseases.”

Defend the Flock materials are available on the Defend the Flock Resource Center at

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