Dutch study to support future avian flu outbreak control

Over the past week, four countries have registered new outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in poultry — Kazakhstan, Russia, the Philippines and Taiwan. Meanwhile, new research in the Netherlands will assist in the control of any future outbreaks of the disease.

(bangoland | Bigstock)
(bangoland | Bigstock)

Results of a recent study in the Netherlands have helped to fill a key gap in knowledge that could help in the control of future outbreaks of avian influenza  in poultry.

With little published literature and few scientific studies, researchers at Wageningen University tested two models using field data from past outbreaks of H5N8 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in Dutch poultry flocks to narrow down the “infection window.”

The ability to estimate this time window for the introduction of the HPAI virus on poultry farms is particularly important to help trace the source of infection (back tracing), according to epidemiologist Armin Elbers.

He said the information can also assist officials to identify other premises that have had contact with the infected farm during the infectious period. As well as supporting the clinical and diagnostic monitoring of those premises, it can help limit the onward spread of the infection (forward tracing).

With lead author Peter Hobbelen, the Wageningen group’s paper was published in the journal Nature in July.

Seven HPAI outbreaks confirmed in Kazakhstan

Following the first confirmation of HPAI in Kazakhstan earlier this month, AKIpress reports that Kyrgyzstan has suspended all imports of live birds and poultry products from the affected region. According to this source, 54,000 poultry have died as the result of five HPAI outbreaks in North Kazakhstan.

A total of 67,800 poultry have been involved in seven HPAI outbreaks during September 11-14, according to the latest report from Kazakhstan’s agriculture ministry. It has registered outbreaks in different districts of North Kazakhstan with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). Affected were village and backyard flocks of up to 23,000 birds. Of this total, 1,763 poultry had died. The official report indicates that no birds had been slaughtered.

While the OIE report identifies the virus as one of the H5 family, Reuters reports Kazakh officials saying it is an H5N8 variant “as recorded in Russia.” As there are current outbreaks linked to this virus in neighboring regions of Russia, the statement points to a possible source of infection in Kazakhstan. Officials added that this virus poses no danger to public health.

HPAI spreads westwards in Russia

During the second week of August this year, HPAI reemerged in Russia. Since that first outbreak in Omsk in the Siberian federal district, the disease has spread westwards to neighboring Urals, and it has now been detected in the Volga district. Cause is the H5N8 virus variant.

Over the past week, Russia’s agriculture ministry has recorded a further six outbreaks affecting a total of more than 4,700 poultry. Among these were cases on two farms — one in Omsk oblast (Siberia) and one in Kurgan oblast (Urals) — as well as three flocks described as “backyard,” and one “village.” One of the backyards was in Saratov oblast, which represents the first outbreak in the Volga federal district.

These latest outbreaks bring the country’s total so far among poultry to 42, and the number of birds directly impacted to more than 1.572 million. Outbreaks have been confirmed in five oblasts in three federal districts, all of which border Kazakhstan.

Among wild birds, Russia’s veterinary authorities have confirmed a further six cases that have tested positive for the H5N8 HPAI virus. The birds — all ducks— were found at different locations in the oblasts of Omsk and Kurgan. The same virus has been detected in poultry in these regions, and at the end of August, in wild swans found dead in Tuymen (Urals federal district).

Taiwan confirms two more HPAI outbreaks

Exactly one year ago, Taiwan reported to the OIE its first ever outbreak of HPAI linked to the H5N5 virus variant.

Over the past week, the Council of Agriculture has registered a further two outbreaks among flocks of native chickens in Yunlin county. Almost 4,600 of the birds died at a farm in Dongshi, as well as 1,431 at Shuilin.

These bring Taiwan’s total outbreaks linked to this virus to 45 since the first cases were detected at a Kaohsiung city farm in early September of 2019.

Philippines continues to monitor poultry for avian flu

During the second week of August, 20 birds belonging to two poultry flocks in Rizal province on the island of Luzon tested positive for the H5N6 HPAI virus. According to the report to the OIE, 10 flock owners in the community of Santa Ana voluntarily surrendered their birds for culling and disposal as part of the disease control measures. In total, 171 were involved in this cull.

Source of the latest infection is identified by the Department of Agriculture as contact with wild birds. This was also suspected in the only other outbreak since July, which involved a commercial flock of 39,000 layers in Pampanga province.

Key to the control of poultry and livestock disease is monitoring of animal health, according to the Philippine News Agency. It reports ongoing blood collection and testing for signs of HPAI in poultry in the Zamboanga Peninsula region of western Mindanao. These procedures are crucial for implementing disease control measures, and treatments where appropriate.

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.

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