Third avian flu virus type detected in Australian poultry

The first instance of the H7N8 variant has been confirmed, with a flock in New South Wales being affected.

Avian Flu Notebook
Alena Ozihilevich | Bigstock

With the detection of another highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) serotype in a poultry flock, Australia’s outbreak total over the past month has risen to eight. 

For the first time, the H7N8 serotype of the HPAI virus has been detected in an Australian poultry flock. Furthermore, these are the first HPAI cases in New South Wales since 2013.

It is the third virus serotype to be identified in the country over the past month.

Around 8,000 of the 235,000 laying hens at the premises died in this outbreak, according to the official notification to the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH). The farm had both barn and free-range flocks, and it appears to be located around 30km northwest of Sydney.

Source of the virus is unknown. However, the report indicates that it is genetically related to strains previously detected in Australian wild birds.

In recent days, WOAH has also been notified by the Australian authorities of two further poultry farms where birds have tested positive for the H7N3 HPAI virus.

As before, the affected flocks were located in the Meredith and Lethbridge areas in the state of Victoria. Latest outbreaks involved around 44,000 ducks reared for eggs and meat, and 174,000 housed laying hens.

Also during the month of May, the H7N9 virus serotype was detected in Australia for the first time. Affected was a layer flock near Terang in Victoria. No further cases have been recorded with WOAH since that time.

Following the announcement of the latest outbreak in poultry in New South Wales, the state premier urged the public not to panic, reported the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). He said that the infection was confined to one site, and that the situation is being managed by government officials.

A food safety expert from Swinburne University stressed that there has never been any evidence of this virus being transmitted to people through food.

With seven of the Australian outbreaks involving laying hens, the same source reports that egg stocks are down in supermarkets.

Furthermore, a low-pathogenic avian influenza virus was detected in Western Australia in May, according to ABC. 

HPAI developments in Asia

In Asia, only Taiwan has recorded further cases of HPAI in domestic poultry.

Towards the end of last month, some of the 57 meat geese at a farm in Yunlin county tested positive for H5N1 virus serotype, according to the latest WOAH notification.

It brought to 40 the number of outbreaks involving Taiwanese poultry since November of 2023.

Officials there have also declared to WOAH that a previous HPAI outbreak wave linked to the same virus variant affecting wild birds has been “resolved.”

Since November of last year, two HPAI virus serotypes have been detected in Japanese poultry flocks.

The nation’s authorities have also reported to WOAH an end to both disease series. Ten farms were affected by the H5N1 virus variant over this period, and one by the H5N6 serotype. Directly affected through mortality and culling were around 808,000 poultry.

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation in poultry, and on disease developments in the U.S..

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