Asian countries are bearing the brunt of the current global battle against highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). New outbreaks in poultry are reported in South Korea, Taiwan and China, and the Beijing government is to start a vaccination program to try to control the further spread of the virus.
In Europe, French farmers hit by recent epidemics are receiving compensation payments, while there are new cases in Belgium.
Among African countries, Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria have confirmed new outbreaks in poultry.
China tackles H7N9 concern
In the last week, China’s ministry of agriculture has reported to the OIE that poultry at four more locations have tested positive for the H7N9 HPAI virus variant, bringing the total number of outbreaks since March this year to nine. Latest to be affected were two farms in Inner Mongolia, one in Guangxi, and a slaughterhouse in Longyan city (Fujian province). Almost 462,000 birds were destroyed as a result of the findings.
As of June 10, the total number of confirmed human cases of influenza A(H7N9) reported globally increased to 1,533, according to the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) in Hong Kong. Of these, 727 cases have been recorded in Mainland China since October 2016. The most recent patients – with disease onset between April 25 and June 6 – numbered 12 and were located in Beijing and six provinces.
Concern over the threat to the health of humans and poultry posed by the H7N9 HPAI virus lies behind the latest announcement from China’s ministry of agriculture to begin vaccination of poultry against the virus, according to Reuters.
Managing director of the China Poultry Association, Li Jinghui, told Reuters the measure would help control the disease in the short term by stabilizing the markets, but that it will not help to eradicate the virus.
Asia: New HPAI outbreaks in poultry in South Korea, Taiwan
The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has received reports of 16 new outbreaks of H5N8 HPAI in South Korea that started in the first week of June. With a total of 2,776 birds dead or destroyed, the majority of the outbreaks occurred in small backyard flocks, although two farms, each with around 400 poultry, were also involved. Eleven of the outbreaks were in regions affected by recent HPAI outbreaks – North Jeolla province, Jeju and Busan city – but first outbreaks were also confirmed in South Gyeongsang province and Ulsan city.
In Taiwan, more than 1,800 turkeys at a farm in Yunlin county have been culled, according to Focus Taiwan, following unusually high mortality and detection of an unspecified HPAI virus. This latest outbreak brings to 74 the number of farms affected in this county alone so far this year, and more than 930,000 poultry have been culled.
Following isolated outbreaks earlier this year of HPAI in poultry and other birds caused by the H5N1 and H5N8 virus variants, Nepal has declared the country to be free of the disease to the OIE. Enhanced surveillance around the outbreaks have revealed no further virus-positive samples.
Europe: New outbreaks in Belgium, compensation in France
Belgium’s animal health authority has reported to the OIE three new HPAI outbreaks of H5N8 virus. Located in the provinces of Luxembourg, Hainaut and West Flanders, the outbreaks occurred in mid-June in birds that belong to unspecified non-poultry species. Almost half of the 101 birds died, and the rest have been humanely destroyed.
In France, the agriculture ministry has informed the OIE that earlier disease events in poultry involving two variants of the low-pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) virus have been resolved. For the H5N8 variant, just one outbreak was reported – at a duck farm in the department of Landes in December last year. There were six outbreaks of involving H5N9 LPAI in Gers and Hautes-Pyrénées, the most recent of which was in January. Since then, neither virus has been detected.
France’s new agriculture minister, Jacques Mézard, has called on his department to complete compensation payments to poultry producers affected by the HPAI epidemics caused by H5N1 in 2016 and H5N8 in 2017. According to the French government, the European Commission has now approved the state aid scheme that was proposed in December last year.
In respect of the earlier epidemic, 351 farms have received an advance amounting to 75 percent of the total of EUR11.4 million. Where flocks were slaughtered preventively, 90 percent of the total EUR12.5 million has already been paid to producers. For the more recent H5N8 epidemic, around half of the compensation was paid out before the epidemic had ended. Outstanding payments will be made in the coming weeks.
While paying tribute to all the farmers and suppliers involved in the HPAI outbreaks, Mézard stressed the need for the whole sector to play a part in preventing the disease in future so that the foie gras industry in France can be revived.
In the United Kingdom, Avian Influenza Prevention Zones in certain areas of the counties of Lancashire, Cumbria and Merseyside in north-west England have now been revoked, leaving only a zone in place after a more recent outbreak in Norfolk, according to the agriculture department, Defra.
Africa: New HPAI outbreaks in Congo, Nigeria, Zimbabwe
Veterinary authorities in Congo have informed the OIE about 11 new outbreaks of HPAI in poultry caused by the H5N8 virus. These occurred between mid-May and early June in village poultry flocks in two districts of Ituri province in the north-east of the country, affecting more than 17,200 poultry of different species. Ituri is the location of the country’s first ever confirmed HPAI outbreak in April, and the source of infection is suspected to be wild birds on nearby Lake Albert.
A backyard flock of around 200 laying hens in the eastern state of Adamawa is the latest Nigerian flock to be hit by H5N1 HPAI. Two hundred birds there were lost to the disease, according to the OIE report.
Following heightened surveillance for avian flu viruses in Libya, LPAI of the H7 family has been detected in a mixed flock of 220 poultry in Frzoga area of Al Marj in the north of the country. The birds have been destroyed.
According to the Zimbabwean animal health agency’s report to the OIE, H5N8 HPAI virus has been detected in two further units at a previously affected farm in Lanark. An estimated 91,000 broiler breeders there have now also been destroyed, and the premises cleaned and disinfected. Testing at 12 nearby farms has turned up no more virus-positive birds.
Latin America: no new avian flu outbreaks
Following earlier outbreaks of LPAI involving the H7N6 variant in Chile, the virus has not been detected for three months and the country has declared itself free to the disease to the OIE.
Last month, the veterinary authority in Mexico reported to OIE that HPAI of the H7N3 subtype had been detected in a layer flock in the state of Jalisco. The birds had shown neither clinical symptoms nor unusual mortality but all were destroyed. No samples taken within 23km of the infected premises in the meantime have tested positive for the virus.