Asian countries continue to battle avian flu in poultry

While Taiwan’s poultry sector continues its long running battle against highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), new outbreaks have been reported in Cambodia, Ghana, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea. From China comes news of the first human case in the world involving an H7N4 influenza virus of avian origin.

(mashi_naz, Bigstock)
(mashi_naz, Bigstock)

While Taiwan’s poultry sector continues its long running battle against highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), new outbreaks have been reported in Cambodia, Ghana, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea. From China comes news of the first human case in the world involving an H7N4 influenza virus of avian origin.

Within the last week, Taiwan’s animal health agency has reported 22 new outbreaks of HPAI linked to the H5N2 virus subtype to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). The majority of the outbreaks — on farms across seven counties — were in meat ducks, while seven more were in native chickens and two in geese. In total, almost 166,000 birds were lost to the disease through mortality or destruction during the period from January 4 through February 5.

A low-pathogenic form of the H5N6 virus is also circulating in the Taiwanese poultry sector. The variant has been detected at a farm with meat ducks in Yunlin county, and all 2,646 birds have been culled as a precaution against further spread. This subtype had been detected previously at two duck farms in Nantou county.

South Korea’s agriculture ministry has informed OIE about one new outbreak of HPAI caused by the H5N6 virus variant. Latest to be affected was a flock of 21,000 laying hens in South Chungcheong province, where an outbreak had been confirmed the previous week. Around 140 birds died, and the rest have been destroyed.

Following unusual mortality and morbidity in a backyard flock in Cambodia, the presence of the H5N1 HPAI virus was confirmed, according to the official report to the OIE. The latest cases were in the province of Kandal, which is in the south of the country and borders Vietnam.

Just one week after declaring the H5N6 HPAI situation in the region to be “resolved,“ Hong Kong’s veterinary authority has sent an Immediate Notification to the OIE regarding the return of the virus to the wild bird population. A gull found dead near to a wetland nature park tested positive for the virus. No signs of the disease have been seen in poultry at two farms within three kilometers of the dead wild bird.

New human flu case of avian origin confirmed in China

China’s medical authority, the National Health and Family Planning Commission, has confirmed the world’s first ever human case of avian influenza A(H7N4), according to Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection. The patient, a woman from Jiangsu province, had previous contact with poultry, and genetic analysis revealed the virus to be of avian origin. Following a period of hospitalization, the patient recovered.

There has also been one new confirmed human case of avian influenza A(H7N9) in China, according to CHP. The latest patient, from Guangdong province, brings the number of global cases since March of 2013 to 1,567. One new case of avian influenza A(H5N6) reported last month puts the total number of cases linked to this virus since 2014 at 19.

Middle East: New HPAI outbreaks in poultry in Iraq, Saudi Arabia

The number of outbreaks of HPAI linked to the H5N8 virus subtype in Saudi Arabia since December 2017 has risen to 15. The three latest outbreaks reported to the OIE by the agriculture ministry were in backyard flocks, and led to the death or destruction of 945 birds. Two of the flocks were in the central province of Riyadh, and the other was in Ash Sharqiyah in the east of the Kingdom.

Iraq’s agriculture ministry has confirmed to the OIE a sixth outbreak of HPAI caused by the same virus variant. Latest to be affected was a farm in Baghdad governorate with 29,000 birds, almost half of which died from the disease, and the rest of the flock has been destroyed.

Africa: New HPAI strain detected in Ghana

An HPAI virus identified as the H9N2 subtype has been detected for the first time in the West African state of Ghana. In early January, the virus affected a layer flock of 16,882 birds in the southern state of Brong-Ahafo. More than 4,000 of the hens died, and the rest have been destroyed. The farm is in the district of Domaa Municipal, which borders Cote d’Ivoire, and the official report to the OIE states that day-old chicks, spent hens, and corn for feed are frequently transported across this international border.

Culling of birds in South Africa to control avian flu has cost 954 million Rand (ZAR; US$81.8 million at current exchange rates), according to the South African Poultry Association in a report to the country’s Parliament about the state of the poultry industry. There have been no new outbreaks of the disease on commercial farms since January 9 this year, but the chairperson of the agriculture committee highlighted the continuing risk of new cases as “some ostriches are still infected.”

Europe: More low-pathogenic avian flu in French poultry

Low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) of the H5N3 subtype was detected at a further three locations in France during the first week of February, according to the official report to the OIE. First was a flock of 6,000 immature turkey breeders in the north-western department of Maine-et-Loire, where the infection was confirmed after suspicious symptoms and elevated mortality were reported. Surveillance of domestic waterfowl prior to movement have revealed subclinical disease in waterfowl in the Gers in the south-west of the country, and a Vendée duck flock prior to gavage.

The French ministry of agriculture last week announced two compensation schemes for the country’s poultry farmers and processing companies whose businesses suffered losses as a result of the 2017 HPAI outbreaks. Total budget for the schemes has been set at EUR97 million (US$120 million)—EUR77 million for poultry producers, and a further EUR20 million for processors.

There is a low risk of the LPAI H5N3 virus mutating into an HPAI, according to the United Kingdom (U.K.) agriculture department, Defra. A greater threat is the reassortment of this subtype with an HPAI variant from wild birds, which makes early detection of LPAI an important tool to control such a risk.

In the U.K., another wild bird found dead has tested positive for the H5N6 HPAI virus. The latest case was a swan in the English county of Oxfordshire.

Bulgaria’s agriculture ministry has informed OIE that the H5 HPAI disease situation that began in October last year has been “resolved.”

With the first outbreak of H5N8 HPAI dating back to December of 2016, Russia’s veterinary authority has declared to the OIE that the country is now free of this virus.

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