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Bird flu at second farm as farmers on high alert

What we need to know about bird flu

Source: World Health Organisation

Bird flu has been detected at a second Victorian farm as authorities remain on high alert for further outbreaks.

The case of Avian influenza (H7N3) was confirmed at a property in Terang, 200 kilometres south-west of Melbourne, on Thursday.

The site is linked to the Meredith egg farm, 130 kilometres away, where a mass culling of 400,000 chickens is underway after some birds died from the same virus.

Both farms share management, staff and machinery.

Agriculture Victoria said the Terang property had been quarantined and officers had extended control orders to include a 1.5-kilometre restricted area.

There is also a five-kilometre restricted area around the Meredith farm, with both sites subject to a broader control-area buffer.

“We encourage the community to play their part so we can suppress and eliminate this outbreak,” Victoria’s chief veterinarian Graeme Cooke said.

“Poultry owners who reside within the restricted and control areas are asked to follow the restrictions and to report any unexplained bird deaths.

“While cases among humans in direct contact with animals infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses are possible, the current risk to the public remains low.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, biosecurity measures have been tightened at a poultry farm in south-western WA after an unrelated strain of avian influenza was found.

Authorities say the Western Australian detection is a H9N2 strain and not connected to the Victorian outbreak.

“H9 strains of avian influenza are known to occur in wild bird populations in Australia and have previously been detected in WA,” WA acting chief vet Katie Webb said.

“The property is currently under a pest control notice to manage the movement of relevant animals and products off the property.”

On Wednesday, a child was confirmed as Australia’s first human case of a lethal strain of avian influenza spreading around the world.

The child, who returned to Victoria from India in March, experienced a “severe infection” after contracting the H5N1 strain but has made a full recovery, Victoria’s chief health officer Clare Looker confirmed.

Authorities say contact tracing has identified no further cases.

The Victorian detection of avian influenza has put egg farmers on high alert across Australia.

“Any biosecurity outbreak becomes concerning to us as farmers,” egg farmer and Victorian Farmers Federation vice-president Danyel Cucinotta said.

Cucinotta, a Victorian egg farmer, said Australia’s poultry industry faced a recurring risk of avian influenza.

“We are on a wild bird flight path, especially from South-East Asia, and that just means we’re at a higher risk all the time,” she said.

Cucinotta said producers were taking extra precautions.

“Anything coming into the farm, such as trucks, could bring in disease. It could be people. It could be packaging, it could be pellets,” she said.

Avian influenza is a highly contagious viral infection that can cause severe symptoms and sudden death in domestic poultry, wiping out entire populations.

Wild birds are the natural host for the disease and it can spread through close contact or contaminated environments.

Authorities have reassured the public that eggs and poultry products in supermarkets pose no risk and are safe to consume.

– AAP

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