LOCAL poultry farmers are on high alert after authorities confirmed a second outbreak of avian influenza in as many weeks.
Two properties near Young in the state’s south-west have been placed under strict quarantine in a bid to stop the disease spreading.
The outbreaks have already wiped out 4 per cent of the national flock, with about 500,000 birds to be culled.
The NSW Department of Primary Industries has moved to assure consumers that all eggs and poultry in the state is safe to eat.
It says that testing has confirmed the virus is the H7 strain of bird flu which, unlike the H5N1 strain, is not harmful to humans.
Tamworth poultry producer Bede Burke, who chairs the NSW Farming Association’s egg committee, said the outbreaks had farmers “extremely” worried.
He said farmers would be doing all they could to tighten their biosecurity measures and prevent the virus from entering their properties.
Mr Burke said ensuring water supplies are correctly chlorinated, reducing a flock’s exposure to wild birds and decontaminating vehicles and equipment were some of the best defences against the virus’ spread.
“There are a lot of different sources where an incursion could occur,” he said.
“People need to be vigilant if they see some signs of ill-health in their flock before it gets to the mortality stage.
“Once they start dying, the virus is hot and active and has a chance of spreading inadvertently to other sheds or farms.”
Federal Agriculture Minister and New England MP Barnaby Joyce said it was imperative for Tamworth that the virus be contained.
“We have to try and work out how that outbreak came about and what was the mechanism that got the disease from one shed to another,” he said.
“Obviously this is very relevant to Tamworth because there is a huge poultry industry in Tamworth and it’s a massive employer.”
Mr Joyce said he feared moves by supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles to increase free-range egg production could result in more bird flu outbreaks.
He said it was an incontrovertible fact that free-range chickens were more likely to come into contact with wild birds carrying the H7 virus than caged chickens.