Weekly Overview: Avian Flu Concerns in Mexico and China

ANALYSIS - While human cases of H7N9 flu are causing concern in China, the situation with the H7N3 virus in birds is creating alarm in the Mexican poultry industry as it spreads over long distances and to all chicken sectors. A new bill in the US is the next step to tackle antibiotic resistance as well as bringing into sight a ban on the drugs for growth promotion in farm animals.
calendar icon 9 May 2013
clock icon 3 minute read

Starting with news on bird flu, the World Health Organization reports a total of 131 confirmed cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) including 32 deaths. The cases so far are still confined to China but Hong Kong and Taiwan have imposed import restrictions on Chinese poultry to reduce the risk of the virus spreading to their territories in chickens showing little outward sign of infection.

The first H7N9 virus-positive live chicken has been reported at a poultry wholesale bazaar in Dongguan city in Guangdong province.

China’s response to the new virus has been praised by international health agencies and also by the scientific journal, Nature.

For a while, highly pathogenic H7N3 bird flu in Mexican poultry was out of the news but not, it turns out, because the virus had gone away. Five more outbreaks have been reported to the OIE this week.

This disease is causing a high level of alarm in Mexico. Senior editor, Chris Wright, reported from the annual ANECA convention - the Mexican Association of Poultry Science Specialists – that the issue is causing frustration and concern in the country.

The virus has spread from the top egg-producing state of Jalisco to the no. 2 egg state of Puebla in the centre of the country and more than 700km away. Furthermore, outbreaks are being reported in broiler and breeder flocks and no longer only in table egg layers.

Poor biosecurity has been blamed for the spread of the virus.

At the convention, producers were using phrases like “disastrous”, “the end of industry”, “event of historic proportions” and “the devil is among us”.

Also in the ‘Bird Flu’ headlines is another outbreak of H5N1 low-pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) has been reported in Lower Saxony, Germany.

Also in the news this week, three senators have introduced the bipartisan Antimicrobial Data Collection Bill in the US, which aims to increase the data collected by the FDA on antibiotic use in farm animals as a means of tackling the issue of antibiotic resistance . The news has been applauded by Pew Charitable Trusts as a move towards ending antibiotic use for growth promotion.

In the UK, the new Chairman of the National Office for Animal Health (NOAH) has said public perceptions about animal medicines and the need for science to help support food production are becoming increasingly positive.

John Hanley, VP and General Manager UK and Ireland for Zoetis, was speaking at the NOAH Annual Dinner, at the Tower Hotel in London, where his Chairmanship was announced.

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