Large avian flu outbreak hits Moscow Oblast

By Vladislav Vorotnikov

- Last updated on GMT

Russia may have to cull up to 4 million chickens to prevent bird flu from spreading
Russia may have to cull up to 4 million chickens to prevent bird flu from spreading

Related tags Influenza Livestock Poultry

A total of 250,000 chickens will be culled on a farm in Moscow Oblast, due to an outbreak of the highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza (AI) H5N8, according to Russia’s sanitary body Rospotrebnadzor. 

Veterinary services are currently taking all measures possible to prevent any human contamination by the virus, it added.

Anna Bricheva, press-secretary of Rospotrebnadzor, said the outbreak had been identified at the Smena poultry farm in the Sergiyev Posad district, and it had disclosed this information due to a possible risk of infection for humans, who were in contact with the sick poultry.

Julia Melano, press-secretary of Russia’s veterinary watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor, said the Smena poultry farm kept 250,000 head of poultry and the entire poultry flock at the facility would be culled. The disease at the farm was initially registered on 1 March and, within several days, nearly 6,000 head of poultry had died as the result of disease.

Enhanced biosecurity measures

Meanwhile, Melano also stressed that the veterinary service had not excluded the possibility of a deterioration in the epizootic situation on AI in Moscow Oblast, adding that all poultry farms in the region had been instructed to take enhanced biosecurity measures.

Speculation on the detection of the first AI outbreak in Moscow Oblast appeared in the Russian media from 2 March. However, before the outbreak was officially confirmed, the country’s federal media agency, Interfax, released a report saying that, according to an unnamed veterinary official, there were two outbreaks reported on industrial farms in Moscow Oblast, including one in the Sergiyev Posad district and one in the Shchelkovsky district.

On 5 March, another media agency Lenta, citing its own sources in the veterinary service, reported an AI outbreak on the poultry farm of Biokombinat in the Shchelkovsky district. However, so far, Russia’s veterinary and sanitary services have not officially confirmed this.

Interfax’s source said that, in order to combat AI in Moscow Oblast, the poultry cull could extend from 400,000 head up to 4 million head. Meanwhile, 14 workers at the farms were hospitalised, as some of them reportedly had symptoms of the disease.

No danger to humans, but threat for poultry industry

In a report released on 6 March, the regional administration of Moscow Oblast insisted that the detected strain of the virus was not dangerous to humans, but was highly pathogenic for poultry. According to preliminary studies, the detected strain is H5N8​, the report said.

Meanwhile, Albert Davleev, president of Agrifood Strategies, has revealed that there were also smaller outbreaks detected in backyard farms in Moscow Oblast. And he suggested that the loss to the Smena poultry farm could extend to half of its annual revenue; according to official data, Smena’s revenue in the past few years has amounted to roughly RUB651 million (US$11m) per year.

The Agriculture Ministry of Moscow Oblast said that despite some restrictive and quarantine measures, the outbreak would not cause a poultry shortage in the region, or in the Russian capital.

Separately, the United States​ and Greece​ have both reported outbreaks of AI this.

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