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Bird flu advice from Sam Davis (ACA Bird Rep)

Bird flu advice from Sam Davis (ACA Bird Rep)

Posted by Sam Davis (NSW, NSW) on 9-Jul-24 05:33 PM AEST
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There are currently two Biosecurity Emergency Orders in place in NSW which restrict movement of all species of all birds in two small areas of the state. One is in the general vicinity of Freemans Reach just to the north of Richmond NSW, and the other is a region to the north-west of the ACT border. Maps of each area are included following this advice. Essentially birds of all avian species are not permitted to be moved into or out of these areas until the order is lifted. All other areas are currently unaffected by any legal restrictions.

For birds outside the above areas (and even within these areas) the general consensus is that aviary birds are highly unlikely to be affected. The only exception is aviaries located within a few kilometres of large free range poultry farms, particularly if aviaries include open roofed flights or use water from untreated local dams. In addition, a further jump is needed for the poultry virus to jump to infect our parrot and finch species.

The source of infection is almost always wild waterfowl. They routinely carry one strain of bird flu or another generally non-lethal normal stuff. In recent year we have more and more free ranging chook farms, and these wild waterfowl poop in the paddocks and dams as they fly over. The chooks pick up the non-lethal strain of bird flu readily. As there are tens of thousands of chooks, the flu spreads and mutates readily. Occasionally it morphs into a deadly strain like has happened a few times recently. Extra rain is also likely to be a factor.

The following recent advice from Dr Brendan Sharpe, poultry health specialist veterinarian at NSW Department of Primary Industries reinforces the above consensus.

With regards to avian influenza. I think it is important to have consistent and non-inflammatory messaging.
Key points:
Birds kept in enclosed aviaries and whos feed and water cannot be contaminated by wild birds are at low risk.
Aviaries located in close vicinity to large commercial poultry farms (e.g. within several km) should take extra precautions in shielding aviaries from potential airborne viral contamination (relevant to all diseases at all times and not just avian influenza). Aviary design considerations and surrounding garden design may assist with this.
Wild birds normally carry low pathogenicity avian influenza. In order to get bird flu(high pathogenicity avian influenza) the virus being carried by wild birds needs to undergo a change in its genetic composition (i.e. it needs to mutate). History will tell us in Australia that this mutation has only ever occurred in large commercial flocks and the likely reason for this is the sheer number of birds kept in close proximity allowing for rapid cycling of the virus promoting mutation.
Australia has a nationally agreed approach to eradication of bird flu when we get it and have done so on all 8 occasions prior to the current outbreaks in 2024. The approach here is to:
1.Contain the disease, by way of quarantine measures on infected premises and placing movement restrictions on zones around infected premises (Restricted and Control Emergency Zones)
2.Conduct surveillance to establish the extent of infection and demonstrate freedom of disease subsequent to eradication efforts.
3.Stamp the infection out by way of euthanising infected commercial flocks and decontaminating the premises.
The responses in the impacted states are being managed in accordance with this national policy so no reason to panic.
Common sense biosecurity should always apply, including:
1.Quarantine introduced birds for minimum of 14 days
2.Only source new stock from reputable sources
3.Only offer chlorinated (e.g. domestic) water to birds
4.Ensure hygiene of visitors to bird rooms/aviaries
5.Regularly sanitise cages and equipment
6.Minimise ability for contact between wild and domestic birds and ensure feed and water cannot be contaminated by wild birds.

I recall talking to Dr Kim Filmer (NSW Chief Animal Welfare Officer) about this some years ago when our friend from the Animal Justice Party, Emma Hurst MLC, was on about battery cages. The spread of bird flu (and other diseases) is a major concern once birds are out of sheds, and it seems this prediction has come to pass.

To summarise, the general consensus is that the risk to aviary birds is minimal. As is always the case, ensure your quarantine and cleanliness procedures are up to scratch.

In general, our aviary birds are not exposed to waterfowl shit, not kept intensively, and most of us are a good distance from chook farms, so we can all calm down!

Sam Davis
Animal Care Australia Inc (ACA) Bird Representative

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