Based on official reports, only Taiwan has confirmed new outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in its poultry sector in the last week, while Hong Kong and Sweden have detected the viruses in other birds.
A gradual seasonal decline in HPAI in the global poultry sector appears to be continuing, based on reports received by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
One significant exception is Taiwan, where the battle against HPAI has been on-going since January of 2015. Its veterinary authority has confirmed a further five outbreaks linked to the H5N2 virus variant during the last week of March.
In total, more than 28,000 birds were lost to the disease through mortality or destruction in these latest outbreaks — four in Yunlin county, and one in Pingtung. More than 1,300 hens died in one outbreak in Yunlin, but the other cases appear to have been identified as the result of surveillance samples sent to the national animal health laboratory. Two of the other outbreaks were in meat ducks, and the others in geese reared for meat.
There have been 57 HPAI outbreaks at poultry farms so far this year, reports Focus Taiwan, and more than 414,000 birds have been culled.
Earlier this month, two new cases of HPAI linked to the H5N8 virus variant were confirmed by the Saudi Arabian agriculture ministry, according to Arab News. The latest cases were both in Al-Kharj governorate, which is in Riyadh province.
A common wild bird of the starling family found dead in the North District has tested positive for the H5N6 variant of the HPAI virus, Hong Kong’s agriculture department has reported to the OIE. It says the virus has returned to the region after an absence of two months. Source of infection is unclear as the bird was found at some distance from nature parks where wild birds are known to congregate.
Possibly as a result of additional surveillance put in place after this finding, an H5 HPAI virus has since been detected at a pet bird market, reports Hong Kong Free Press. Yuen Po Street Bird Garden has been closed for 21 days as a precaution, almost 3,000 birds disposed of, and the area is being cleaned and disinfected.
More than 100 wild crows and other birds have died at a park in Itami in Japan’s Hyogo prefecture since March 1, according to The Mainichi, and the H5N6 HPAI virus has been confirmed in 38 of them. The birds do not represent a high risk of infection to people, but the Environment Ministry says the cases are unusual as water birds have previously been more susceptible to HPAI infections than those living inland.
Africa: More outbreaks in South African poultry
After two new outbreaks of HPAI were recently confirmed in poultry, the Department of Rural, Environment and Agricultural Development for the North West Province of South Africa last week warned local farmers to be alert for signs of the disease in their flocks.
The latest cases were in commercial quails in Madibeng, and in nearby Maquassie Hills among a group of wild ducks kept as pets. A third suspected outbreak in Maquassie Hills had not been confirmed. Quarantine measures had been put in place at these locations, and samples were being taken from surviving birds, and surrounding farms.
Europe: HPAI detected in wild birds in Scandinavia
Sweden’s animal health agency has informed OIE about a further wild bird that has tested positive for HPAI. The H5N6 virus was detected in an eagle found dead in Blekinge county in the south of the country. A previous case was found in the eastern county of Uppsala.
Thirteen of the 70 wild birds found dead in Denmark since the New Year have tested positive for HPAI. A veterinarian with the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration said these findings should not cause alarm as the H5N6 virus subtype is not dangerous to humans, and cases in wild birds are not unexpected at this time of year. So far, there have been no cases in Danish poultry in 2018, but farmers should take care with their biosecurity as any outbreaks in the commercial sector could lead to the immediate closure of export markets, warned the agency.
Measures put in place to minimize the risks of spreading HPAI in the Netherlands in December 2017 were lifted throughout the country last week, according to the agriculture ministry. Restrictions put in place following an HPAI outbreak at a farm in Kamperveen a month ago had already been lifted in six Dutch regions.
Low-pathogenic avian flu in US: situation “closed”
Following a single outbreak of low-pathogenic avian influenza caused by the H7N1 virus subtype in Texas last month, the United States Department of Agriculture has informed the OIE that the situation has been “closed and resolved.” Samples taken after the farm had been depopulated, cleaned and disinfected were all negative for the virus.