Concerns over spread of US bird flu

By Chloe Ryan

- Last updated on GMT

There are concerns that other large poultry-producing regions in the US are at risk
There are concerns that other large poultry-producing regions in the US are at risk

Related tags: Bird flu, Influenza, Livestock, Poultry

Reported cases of avian influenza in the US have now reached 156 in the past six months, making the current situation the most extensive outbreak of the disease ever reported in the country.

According to a new report, from the UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, about the spread of bird flu in America, Africa and Europe, the 156 confirmed outbreaks of H5N2 HPAI in the US between December 2014 and May 2015 have resulted in the culling of over 32.5 million poultry.

There have been new cases in the previously unaffected states of Kentucky and New Mexico and in Nebraska and Indiana. There are concerns the discovery of bird flu in both poultry and wild birds in the east may put other large poultry-producing regions in Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina at risk.

In Canada there have been two further outbreaks of H5N2 HPAI. New instances have also been reported from Russia, Turkey, Israel and the Gaza Strip, and in Africa in Niger and Burkina Faso.

The relationships among all these viruses is under investigation by the international reference laboratory at APHA-Weybridge. 

"This year continues to be unprecedented in terms of the frequency of avian influenza outbreaks,"​ authors Jonathan Smith, Professor Ian Brown and Dr Helen Roberts stated in the report.

The significant spread across short distances in the USA has led researchers to look into the possibility of airborne transmission that has been previously demonstrated in the Netherlands in 2003. Originally, all introductions into poultry farms were considered to be through contact with wild birds, or by contact with contaminated footwear or clothing on poultry workers or through contaminated equipment or bedding.

There is no specific increase in risk to the UK as a result of these latest outbreaks, the report stated. "We would like to remind all poultry-keepers and attending veterinarians to maintain high standards of biosecurity, remain vigilant and report any suspect clinical signs promptly,"​ it concluded.

Related topics: Meat

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