Bird flu confirmation near Maitland prompts virus alert

A LOCAL egg producer has urged all those in the poultry industry to “dramatically tighten” their biosecurity after it was yesterday confirmed bird flu had been found in a layer hen facility near Maitland.

NSW Farmers Association egg producers committee chairman Bede Burke said news the flock of 50,000 birds contained the H7 avian influenza was worrying and represented a “major incursion” into disease control.

The virus is not the infamous H5N1 strain that can be passed from birds to humans, nor is it closely related to it.

The Department of Primary Industries and Livestock Health and Pest Authority are undertaking tracing and surveillance work to ensure the virus hasn’t spread, but they say there is no evidence it has.

The property has been quarantined and the birds will be culled.

“Australia has previously had a small number of outbreaks of H7 avian influenza viruses which were all quickly and successfully eradicated,” chief veterinary officer Ian Roth said.

Mr Burke urged anyone with a bird species to be vigilant, monitor the health of their stock, document the movement of people through their property, and if using surface water, ensure chlorinators are working properly.

Even backyard chook owners should be alert, he said.

Mr Burke said the Tamworth area was one of the biggest poultry producers in the state, making the news all the more significant.

The Tamworth area was reportedly the site of the last avian flu outbreak in Australia in 1997.

Dr Roth said people who noticed sick or dead birds should contact their local vet or call the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline 1800 675 888.

The NSW Food Authority advised the virus does not pose a food safety risk to consumers and said eggs from the property in question had been quarantined.

It says it is wise to take normal food safety precautions and its usual advice for eggs is to avoid eating raw eggs and to not eat eggs that are cracked or dirty.

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