Thursday, February 29, 2024

HPAI continues assault on world poultry flocks

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By Barbara Olejnik

Poultry Times staff

GAINESVILLE, Ga. — France continues to battle outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza in poultry flocks in the southwestern part of the country.

The country has recorded 67 outbreaks of HPAI since the virus was detected, beginning in November 2015. Overall, there have been 129 suspected outbreaks, with 67 testing positive for highly pathogenic H5 strains, 45 negative and three still under investigation.

The 67th outbreak involved a farm of 10,000 chickens and 4,000 ducks in the town of Gabat in the Pyrenees Altantiques region.

France’s outbreaks have been caused by a new highly pathogenic Eurasian H5N1 strain, as well as H5N2 and H5N9.

The southwestern region of France is home to a concentrated population of foie gras and poultry producers.

Agricultural officials in Scotland have reported that initial tests have identified H5N1 as the cause of an outbreak at a poultry farm in Fife in the country’s east central region.

An estimated 40,000 chickens were culled and a 1-kilometer protection zone established to prevent the potential spread of the virus.

Officials said results so far indicate that the strain is very mild and isn’t the same as the H5N1 virus infecting birds in Asia and north Africa.

Nigeria has been especially hard hit by outbreaks of the H5N1 strain of the virus.

The most recent outbreak of avian influenza involved  a farm of 120,000 laying hens in Enugu state in the south. The virus killed 14,000 bird and the rest were euthanized to prevent spread of the disease. The outbreak began on Nov. 18, but was not reported to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) until Jan. 5.

Additional recent outbreaks have been seen in the Delta state in the south and three in Kano state, located in the north. The Delta state outbreak was on a large commercial facility that housed more than 34,000 broilers, layers and breeders. The outbreaks in Kano state affected 15,450 birds on three farms. The virus killed 8,349 birds at the four facilities and the rest were culled to control spread of the virus.

In Vietnam, H5N6 hit backyard flocks in Quang Ngai province, in the south central region and Kon Tum province in the central highlands, according to the OIE. Of 1,824 susceptible birds in the two locations, the virus killed 1,054 and the rest were slaughtered.

While outbreaks in Europe and Africa have affected poultry flocks, outbreaks in China have resulted in human illness and death.

China has confirmed 707 H7N9 avian flu patients since the outbreak began in 2013. The latest wave, which began last fall, now totals 21 cases.

Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection (CHP) has reported on eight recent cases in Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces.

The patients, five women and three men, range in age from 29 to 65. Of the eight people infected with the virus, five have died.

“We will remain vigilant and work closely with the World Health Organization and relevant health authorities to monitor the latest developments,” a spokesman for the Department of Health said.

The department’s Public Health Office conducts health surveillance measures at all boundary control points. Thermal imaging systems are in place for body temperature checks on inbound travelers. Suspected cases will be immediately referred to public hospitals for follow-up.

Human infections with a new avian influenza A (H7N9) virus were first reported in China in March 2013. Most of these infections are believed to result from exposure to infected poultry or contaminated environments.

The rise in human avian flu cases comes in the weeks leading up to Lunar New Year celebrations on Feb. 8 and when poultry sales typically pick up.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has posted a travel notice for people who will visit Asia for the Lunar New Year, urging people to take health precautions to protect against avian flu.

The agency warned travelers to avoid touching birds, pigs or other animals and to avoid farms and poultry markets.

The CDC stated that there is no evidence that any human cases of avian influenza have ever been acquired by eating properly cooked poultry products.

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