BY STEVE LILLEBUEN
AT least 10,000 ducks will have to be destroyed to contain an outbreak of bird flu at two Victorian farms.
The virus found in birds on the two properties is a low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) and not the deadlier form of the virus that spread through Asia, threatening humans and leading to a mass cull of poultry.
Dr Andrew Cameron, the state’s chief veterinary officer, says there is no risk to the community, but authorities had to act quickly to quarantine the two properties run by a company north of Melbourne to remove any chance the virus could spread.
“This is all about making sure that the virus doesn’t one day in the future evolve and mutate into a more serious form,” he said. The source of the latest outbreak has not been confirmed, but officials believe the virus could have been introduced from wild waterfowl known to harbour influenza viruses.
The Department of Primary Industries will work with the farm owner to dispose of all the ducks and disinfect the farms, he said. The discovery of the virus came from routine testing that is conducted regularly in the hopes of catching outbreaks before they get out of hand.
Bird flu, also known as avian influenza or AI, is a contagious disease that affects all kinds of poultry.Dr Cameron said transmission of the virus from birds to humans is very uncommon and this recent outbreak was the first time this particular subtype of the virus had been found in Australian poultry.
“It is a rare event, and we want to absolutely make sure it stays that way,” he said. Control of the disease is taking place under a nationally agreed framework which involves industry, the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments.
An incident management team has been assembled and is tracking all movements to and from the infected farms and surrounding areas. The two farms are about 25km apart in an area north of Melbourne, but officials are keeping the exact location private.
Three previous Australian outbreaks of avian influenza in Victoria – the most recent in 1992 – have been successfully eradicated.