The department is aware of the multiple outbreaks worldwide of H5 related highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses in poultry. These outbreaks have resulted from a new H5N8 strain of the virus that emerged in poultry and many wild bird species in Asia in 2014. They include:
- H5N1 in China and Vietnam
- H5N2 in North America and Taiwan
- H5N6 in China, Laos and Vietnam
- H5N8 in China, Europe, Japan, North America, South Korea and Taiwan.
These viruses are not known to easily cause disease in humans, however a small number of people infected with H5N6 have been reported in China since late 2014.
The multiple H5N2 and H5N8 HPAI outbreaks in commercial and backyard poultry flocks worldwide have serious socioeconomic and animal health impacts. The current outbreak in the United States alone has been confirmed in more than 46 million birds with HPAI.
Information about the situation in the United States is available on the US Department of Agriculture website, while further information on the global HPAI situation is available on the World Organisation for Animal Health website.
Australia’s chief veterinary officer has been in contact with Australian poultry groups to keep them aware of the current avian influenza situation.
Avian influenza and risks to Australia
It is not uncommon for wild birds in Australia or migratory birds coming to Australia to carry low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI).
Australia has previously had outbreaks of avian influenza in commercial poultry – all of which were successfully eradicated. These outbreaks were not caused by the strains that have recently emerged and are currently causing concern in the United States and Asia.
While the likelihood of these overseas H5 HPAI viruses entering and becoming established in Australia is low, it is a timely reminder that all bird owners and poultry producers put good biosecurity measures in place to prevent avian influenza, and other endemic diseases, in their birds.
Good biosecurity to protect your birds
Observations from the United States have seen huge difficulties in eradicating and controlling the spread of the viruses in commercial flocks.
Good biosecurity practices are the key to preventing the spread of avian influenza in poultry species and are critical in combating any incursion.
Poultry producers should review and enhance their biosecurity plans and practices, particularly those around preventing contact with wild birds (including through poultry drinking water, as wild bird contact with water for poultry is a known path for avian influenza virus transmission).
Other bird owners (with pet, show or racing birds) also need to practice good biosecurity. See the bird biosecurity page for simple tips on preventing avian influenza and other diseases in your birds.
Importantly, if your birds are showing signs of disease or you see large numbers of dead birds, report it to the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888.