25,000 Australian ducks gassed amid bird flu fears

By Ankush Chibber

- Last updated on GMT

Ducks in Australia found with bird flu but chicken deemed safe
Ducks in Australia found with bird flu but chicken deemed safe

Related tags: Avian influenza

Australia has activated a national disease emergency plan after an outbreak of deadly bird flu was confirmed following the discovery of infected birds at two free-range duck farms near Melbourne in south eastern Australia.

According to a statement from the Victorian government, all 25,000 ducks on two Golden Duck Farms properties at Gisborne and Mickleham were gassed on the night of January 29 to protect the country’s A$2.5 billion poultry industry.

The outbreak was confirmed on January 27 when Victoria’s Department of Primary Industries (DPI) quarantined the commercial duck farms after birds there tested positive to Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI).

According to Dr Andrew Cameron, chief veterinary officer at DPI, tests carried out at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory had given a positive response to low pathogenic H5 subtype avian influenza virus.

“This low pathogenic subtype of avian influenza is not the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus affecting poultry and humans throughout much of Asia. The wider community is not at risk from this incident,”​ he said.

“The virus is relatively harmless now, but we do not want to take the risk it could linger in bird populations and mutate to a more virulent strain.”

According to the DPI statements, the farms have been placed under strict quarantine and no birds, eggs, meat or associated equipment can be taken off the property in line with anti-outbreak procedures.

All chickens or ducks on properties within the restricted are being tested for LPAI including a commercial chicken-meat farm across the road from the New Gisborne duck farm. Test results so far have been negative, media reports say.

No need to fear chicken

Victoria’s Acting Chief Health Officer Dr Rosemary Lester pointed out that as of now, poultry consumption in Australia was safe. “Poultry meat and eggs continue to be safe under normal food handling and cooking arrangements,”​ she said.

The Australian Chicken Meat Federation (ACMF) affirmed no chicken farms have been infected and added that while the strain poses a potential risk to chickens, it is not a food safety risk.

“This is not the strain of avian influenza that has caused human infections overseas,”​ said ACMF executive director Dr Andreas Dubs. He said cooked chicken and chicken meat products are safe for consumption.

“I am confident the outbreak will be controlled quickly. The Australian government, working with industry, has successfully eradicated five outbreaks of avian influenza in the past,”​ Dubs said.

“As well, government has tested, reviewed and refined their procedures, and we are very confident in their ability and determination to work with industry to contain and eradicate the outbreak,”​ he added.

Related topics: Business, Oceania, Food safety, Meat

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