GLOBAL - Could we be seeing the start of a new 'bird flu season' in the Northern Hemisphere? Jackie Linden reviews the latest discoveries of low-pathogenic bird flu viruses in poultry in Europe and Taiwan, as well as the impacts of previous outbreaks of the disease on the Chinese and Australian markets.
There have been reports of a low-pathogenic bird flu viruses being found during routine surveillance of poultry in southern Germany, southern Portugal and in the north of The Netherlands. The Portuguese infection is the first in the country for almost five years.
In each of these outbreaks, the source of infection remains a mystery. The flocks certainly have no connection with each other but the fact that they are small and/or mixed flocks suggests the most likely source of infection is wild birds while the poultry were on free range.
Birds in the affected flocks have been destroyed as a precaution and the usual biosecurity measures have been put in place.
In Asia, Taiwan has reported finding the low-pathogenic virus in a large duck flock a month ago as the result of routine surveillance following previous outbreaks.
Following their experiences last year with bird flu, the Chinese authorities have announced that a leading live poultry market in Shanghai will be closed from the end of January until the end of April as a precaution.
China and Hong Kong have reported new human victims of the H7N9 avian influenza A virus.
Meanwhile, global H7N9 flu preparedness work is well underway, according to the the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). With the threat of avian influenza A(H7N9) spreading during the autumn and winter months, that organisation and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have joined forces to enhance surveillance and improve preparedness and response capacities in key countries in Asia and beyond.
Re-stocking is expected to start at the farms in Australia hit by bird flu in October. There, the units were large enough for the production break for thorough cleaning to make egg supplies short in the run-up to Christmas.
You can visit the Avian Flu page by clicking here.
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