Avian flu returns to Japan, Turkey

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has been reported in Japan for the first time this winter, and new outbreaks have been confirmed in poultry in Bangladesh, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, and Turkey. The H5N6 variant of the virus has been detected in wild birds in Germany and the United Kingdom (U.K.) for the first time.

Gabriela Pernecka, Freeimages.com
Gabriela Pernecka, Freeimages.com

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has been reported in Japan for the first time this winter, and new outbreaks have been confirmed in poultry in Bangladesh, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, and Turkey. The H5N6 variant of the virus has been detected in wild birds in Germany and the United Kingdom (U.K.) for the first time.

Japan’s agriculture ministry has reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) the country’s first outbreak of HPAI of this winter. The H5N6 virus subtype was detected at a farm with 51,000 broilers in Kagawa prefecture on the island of Shikoku in the south-west of the country. The authorities were alerted after 55 of the birds died on one day, and preliminary tests confirmed the virus. All remaining birds and another 40,000 at an epidemiologically linked farm have been culled, and movement restrictions have been put in place in the area.

The battle against H5N6 HPAI has been ongoing in South Korea since November last year, and the agriculture ministry has confirmed a further three outbreaks in the duck sector of South Jeolla province to the OIE. Latest to be affected were two flocks of meat ducks totaling 31,000 birds, and a flock of 5,900 parent birds.

In Taiwan, there have been a further five outbreaks of HPAI linked to the H5N2 virus, according to the latest official report to the OIE. Almost 46,000 birds were lost to the disease in these outbreaks, which occurred during the third week of December. One of the outbreaks was detected in chickens at a slaughterhouse in Kaohsiung, while the others were on farms in the counties of Pingtung, Chiayi and Yunlin.

There have been six outbreaks of HPAI caused by this virus in Taiwan so far this year, according to the latest report from Focus Taiwan, with almost 70,000 birds culled to control the further spread of infection. The latest cases were among 3,915 ducks at a farm in Dongshih in Yunlin county.

From Bangladesh comes news of a further outbreak of H5N1 HPAI at a farm in Dhaka. Sudden death and diarrhea were reported among a flock of 4,000 birds in early January.

Local sources report an outbreak of avian flu in poultry at a village in south eastern Turkey. Hurriyet Daily News reports that more than 600 birds have been culled in the province of Mardin after the virus was detected in two birds. All poultry have been destroyed, and quarantine measures have been put in place at the town.

China’s agriculture ministry has declared to the OIE that it has resolved the disease situation linked to the H7N9 HPAI virus in poultry. The last cases were confirmed in June last year.

There has been just one confirmed case of avian influenza A(H7N9) involving this virus since October 2017, according to Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection. The same agency reports one new case of avian influenza A(H5N6), bringing China’s total number of cases to 18 since 2014.

Europe: H5N6 detected in wild birds in Germany, UK

OIE has been informed by the animal health agencies in Germany and the UK that the H5N6 variant of the HPAI virus has been detected in wild birds in their respective countries for the first time.

In Germany, the virus was found in a dead duck of unknown species in the southeastern state of Bavaria. At a natural park in the southern English county of Dorset, three dead swans tested positive for the same subtype.

“As the virus has been circulating across Europe, this finding has not come as a surprise,” said the UK chief veterinarian, Nigel Gibbens. “But it is vital that anyone who keeps birds—whether a few in a back garden or thousands on a farm—is vigilant for any signs of disease, reports suspect disease to Animal and Plant Health Agency, and maintains good biosecurity to reduce the risk of their birds becoming infected.”

South Africa: Officials urge government to intervene for avian flu prevention

South Africa’s veterinary authority has reported to the OIE a further 12 outbreaks of HPAI linked to the H5N8 virus variant between August and early December. These took the country’s total to 121 outbreaks. As before, outbreaks were confined to the commercial ostrich sector, and all but one of the affected facilities were in Western Cape Province. One hundred and ninety cases were identified among the more than 17,000 birds involved.

The same virus type was detected in a dead wild bird of the gull family in Cape Town last month.

An official from Western Cape Province recently told Eye Witness News that there had been no new avian flu cases since October, while a local veterinarian warned that outbreaks could return in the winter without urgent government intervention.

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