Around 250,000 ducks were culled after the detection of the virus, and the Australian authorities have been reassuring. The country’s chief veterinary officer said: “I am advised by Victoria that laboratory results were positive for a low pathogenic H5 subtype. In other words, this strain has limited capability to cause disease in the birds.
“This is not the high pathogenic H5N1 strain that is the focus of world attention. On occasion, low pathogenic avian influenza is detected in wild birds in Australia. This is not an unusual occurrence. I am advised that the risk to human health is negligible.”
The Australian Chicken Meat Federation (ACMF) also released a statement saying no chicken farms had been affected, and that chicken meat products remained safe to eat. ACMF executive director Andreas Dubs said: “This is not the strain of avian influenza that has caused human infections overseas. 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.
“As well, [the] 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.”
At the Department of Primary Industries (DPI), chief veterinary officer Andrew Cameron said although the virus was relatively harmless, no chance would be taken.
“Control of this disease is taking place under a nationally agreed framework, which involves industry, the Commonwealth and all State and Territory governments. When this virus is detected, stamping it out is the agreed national approach.
“DPI veterinary officers are already operating under that plan in consultation with the Commonwealth and the other states. An Incident Management team has been established at DPI’s Attwood facility. The team has already begun tracking all movements to and from the affected enterprises and is checking poultry and ducks on other properties in the surrounding districts,” Cameron added.