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Weekly Review: Bird Flu Hits Mexican Egg Industry Again

17 January 2013

ANALYSIS - Highly pathogenic bird flu has broken out again in one egg flock in Mexico, with a neighbouring flock subsequently also found to be affected. Both flocks have been destroyed and the usual procedures have been put in place to halt the spread of the disease, which hit the country's top egg-producing state just last year. New research highlights ways that poultry processing plants can protect workers from Campylobacter infections. Pressure is mounting in the UK and the US for more restrictions on antibiotic use in farm animals.

The New Year did not start well for the poultry industry in Mexico with the discovery of a new outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) at an egg farm in the state of Aguascalientes. Around 3,000 birds of a flock of 147,000 died or showed symptoms, subsequently identified as the H7N3 subtype. This is the same sub-type as the virus that hit the egg industry in the neighbouring state of Jalisco a few months ago. A second flock on a neighbouring farm was also found to be infected, following routine surveillance. As a result, 285,000 birds have been destroyed on the two farms.

Following the bird flu outbreak in Jalisco, the country has supplies of vaccine, which are available for other farms in the area. vaccination is reported to be underway and the usual protocols of quarantine, movement restrictions and screening have been put in place.

The Aguascalientes outbreak raises questions as to how the market will react and if there will be any influence on domestic egg and poultry prices, reports the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). It also questions whether the Mexican industry will continue pushing as forcefully for expanded market access to the US, which has been restricted historically due to zoosanitary concerns, specifically exotic Newcastle disease.

With the last outbreak of HPAI in Jalisco still in mind and the country's egg farms not yet fully re-stocked, the latest news from Aguascalientes must come as a severe blow to one of the world's top egg-producing and egg-consuming countries.

Continuing on zoonotic diseases, researchers in the US conducting a study of Campylobacter illness in poultry plant workers have found that infections were most likely in new employees and those who worked in the live hang areas.

The scientists recommended that efforts should be made in plants to incorporate engineering controls, such as improved sanitation, ventilation system modifications and installation of hands-free soap dispensers and waste receptacles. They also stressed the need for employee training (in English and Spanish) and compliance with plant policies related to hand hygiene and the use of personal protective equipment to be improved, especially among new and temporary employees.

The use of antibiotics on farm has been causing concern among consumers, farmers, politicians and lobby groups for some time and it is starting to become a major crusade for some to restrict their use further, including in the US and the UK.

Jackie Linden

Jackie Linden

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