In the Philippines, several provincial authorities have introduced a ban on the entry of live birds and poultry products from other areas. These moves follow the spread of the H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus, which was detected in the country for the first time in early January. 

The latest official notifications from the national veterinary agency cover 16 new outbreaks starting between January 26 and March 7. According to the most recent report to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), these directly impacted around 20,800 poultry. The infected premises included 11 backyards and five commercial farms, each with 970-7,800 birds. Three were duck flocks.

Cases were detected in five different provinces in Central Luzon, Calabarzon, and Bicol. Previous cases have occurred in all three of these regions on the island of Luzon.

So far, 28 outbreaks in the Philippines linked to this virus serotype have been registered with the OIE. More than 104,000 birds have been directly affected in total. 

Furthermore, the H5N8 HPAI virus variant has been detected in the Philippines for the first time. At the end of February, ducks from a farm in the Pampanga province of Central Luzon tested positive for this serotype.

Movement controls to prevent HPAI spread

Earlier this month, the Philippines News Agency (PNA) reported that HPAI virus has also been detected on the country’s southern island of Mindanao. As part of a surveillance program, blood samples from ducks had tested positive for the virus. These samples were taken in a city in Sultan Kudarat, a province in the Soccsksargen region.

In several of the country’s regions, provincial authorities are taking measures aimed at preventing the entry of HPAI. For most, this involves banning the entry of live birds — both domestic and wild species — as well as poultry products, according to PNA. For South Cotabato — which borders Sultan Kudarat — the measures aim to protect its valuable trade supplying fighting cocks to Luzon, as well as its many poultry farms. Random blood sampling has been introduced for domestic ducks in one province in Western Visayas, the same source reports. These birds are at particular risk of infection as they mix with migrating wild birds in the region’s extensive rice fields.  

Earlier this month, the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service reported that the Philippines’ Department of Agriculture had published an updated Avian Influenza Protection Program-Manual of Procedure. Finalized in 2020, the AIPP-MOP follows OIE guidelines on preventing the entry of the disease into the country, as well as measures to be implemented in cases of virus incursion.

Nepal registers 19 new farm outbreaks

Over the past three weeks, OIE has been notified of 19 new HPAI outbreaks across the regions of Nepal.

Starting between mid-February and mid-March, the outbreaks directly impacted more than 100,000 poultry. All affected premises are described as “farms,” each with flock sizes between 67 and 28,300. Majority hold mixed poultry species.

Since the country’s first outbreaks in January, the H5N1 HPAI virus has been detected at 31 locations with a total of more than 137,000 poultry. Affected have been premises in zones belonging to the three eastern regions, including around the capital city, Kathmandu.

New cases in Taiwan

Native chickens at five further locations in Taiwan have tested positive for the H5N2 HPAI virus. This is according to the latest report from the territory’s veterinary authority to the OIE.

Between February 19 and March 5, birds tested positive for this virus serotype in two towns in Yunlin county, and one in each of Changhua county and the cities of New Taipei and Tainan. Each with between 235 and around 14,600 birds, all affected premises were described as farms.

Since the start of the current disease wave in November of last year, 30 outbreaks in Taiwan have been notified to the OIE, impacting more than 415,000 poultry.

One new outbreak in Japanese poultry flock

Last week, Japan’s agriculture ministry has confirmed another HPAI outbreak in poultry. This brings the country’s total outbreaks to 17 since the start of the winter. 

Latest to be affected were around 32,000 chickens in the Ishinomaki city area in Miyagi. Elevated mortality had been observed in the flock. The premises was put under movement restrictions, and the remaining birds were scheduled for culling.

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Latest cases bring the number of poultry directly impacted by HPAI in Japan this winter to almost 1.09 million.

This is the season’s first outbreak in Miyagi prefecture, which is in the Tohoku region in northern Honshu.

At two premises in November of last year, the H5N8 virus variant was detected. However since then, All Japan’s cases have involved the H5N1 serotype. Prior to the latest outbreak, there has been no cases in poultry for around six weeks.

Other HPAI developments in Asia

In South Korea, three further confirmed outbreaks of HPAI linked to the H5N1 virus serotype have been registered with the OIE. All were identified as a result of enhanced farm surveillance.

These bring to 47 the nation’s total outbreaks since November of 2021. More than 4.85 million poultry have been directly involved on infected premises.

Meanwhile, animal health agencies of Israel and Russia have declared to the OIE that earlier HPAI outbreak waves are now closed. Both involved the H5N1 HPAI virus variant.

In Israel, the declaration followed 18 confirmed outbreaks in poultry between October of last year and early January. Affected were just over one million poultry at farms in the Northern, Central, and Southern districts, as well as Haifa and Golan.

In Russia, there was a single HPAI outbreak in the Urals federal district region of Tyumen in October of 2021. Involving a commercial flock of more than 4.3 million poultry through mortality and culling, the outbreak was declared ended in late February after more than four million poultry were destroyed.

Over the past three weeks, new cases of HPAI in wild birds have been registered with the OIE by the authorities in Israel, Japan, and South Korea.

Recent human influenza infections in Asia

Since the start of March, the World Health Organization has been informed about 10 new human cases of avian influenza A of avian origin in the Western Pacific Region.

Six of these cases were infected with avian influenza A(H5N6) — all in mainland China. Patient ages ranged from six to 79 years. Two died, and the others were all described as being in a critical condition at the time of reporting. All patients had been exposed to sick or infected poultry.

To date, WHO has reported 75 lab-confirmed cases of human infection with influenza A(H5N6) virus in this region since 2014. These include 32 deaths.

Avian influenza A(H9N2) has been confirmed in the other four human cases reported by the WHO so far this month.

These bring to 74 the number of confirmed infections with this virus variant in the Western Pacific since 2015. This includes mortality in two people with underlying health conditions.

The latest patients were three girls aged 13 months, 2 years and 5 years, and a 71-year-old woman. The youngest cases was in Cambodia, while the others were in China. Again, contact with poultry was suspected as the cause of infection. After showing mild symptoms, all four of these patients have recovered.

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.