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on May 4, 2016

Avian influenza hits flocks in Middle East, Italy

Italy, Iraq and Lebanon have reported their first outbreaks of avian influenza in poultry

During the past two weeks, since an April 19 report on avian influenza, the veterinary authorities of three countries have reported their first outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE): Iraq, Lebanon and Italy.

In France, a three-month ban has begun on the production of foie gras in the region that recently suffered many HPAI outbreaks in ducks and geese.

First-time avian flu outbreaks in Middle East and Europe

The two Middle East states reported outbreaks caused by the H5N1 virus. Iraq has confirmed six outbreaks, the first in December 2015 and the most recent one in February 2016, after an absence from the country of almost 10 years. Affected were five farms and one backyard flock at five different locations across the country, involving 718,599 birds, 77,000 of which died. The source of the original infection is unknown, as is the case for a single outbreak in Lebanon. In late April at a closed farm in the Beqaa Valley, abnormal mortality was observed in a flock of 80,000 poultry. About 20,000 birds died and the rest have been destroyed.

After an absence since January 2015, Italy reported its first outbreak of HPAI at the end of April in the region of Emilia Romagna. The owner of a flock of 17,000 free-range organic layers noticed a spike in mortality over 2-3 days, with 600 deaths in total. The remaining birds have been destroyed and the usual control measures have been introduced, including a three-kilometer protection zone and 10-kilometer surveillance zone around the premises. The cause of the outbreak has been confirmed as the H7N7 subtype of the HPAI virus.

Further HPAI outbreaks in Mexico, Ghana, Vietnam, Myanmar and Taiwan

Mexico reported its first cases of HPAI caused by the H7N3 variant of the virus to the OIE last month. Its latest report records a further six outbreaks, all starting in April and in the center of the country – 2 each in the states of Vera Cruz and Puebla and one each in Oaxaca and Jalisco. The most significant outbreak was in a flock of 161,000 commercial layer pullets at Acatic in Jalisco state. Altogether, almost 173,000 poultry were affected, either dying or destined for destruction.

With its first HPAI in June 2015, Ghana has reported a further 2 outbreaks in April, both in the south of the country. The first was in a flock of 3,940 layers and growers in Eastern state, while a small laying flock of 252 birds in Western state was affected in the other new outbreak. All surviving birds in both outbreaks have been destroyed.

A report in Myanmar Times indicates that 35,000 laying hens have been destroyed after an outbreak of HPAI in Monywa in Sagaing region. H5 and H9 viruses are blamed for the outbreak.

After a series of abnormal bird deaths, 1,832 geese at a farm in Tainan in southern Taiwan were culled in late April after an avian flu outbreak was confirmed there, according to Focus Taiwan.

An outbreak of LPAI was recently reported in the United States.

France bans foie gras production in avian flu-affected region

A three-month ban on the production of foie gras has started in the 18 departments affected by the HPAI outbreaks, according to Le Local. While the farmers are receiving compensation, there is no such plan for manufacturers of foie gras and other duck and goose products, leading to warnings of substantial financial and job losses for the sector. France produces 75 percent of the world’s foie gras, exporting nearly 5,000 metric tons of it in 2014. Production in the Dordogne – the region affected by the ban – is covered by a “protected geographical indication” label.

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