France Eases Restrictions on Poultry Farms as Avian Influenza Cases Decline
France has eased restrictions to curb the impact of avian influenza as there have been no new cases of the virus detected on farms in the country since March 14. Poultry farmers are now allowed to let birds outdoors under certain conditions and must keep them away from areas where wildlife are active. However, the Ministry of Agriculture encourages producers to continue implementing biosecurity measures and to remain vigilant as cases in wildlife and migrating birds have still been detected.
“Scottish study recommends long-term conservation measures to combat avian influenza in wild birds”
A study by Scottish government agency NatureScot has found that long-term conservation measures are the most effective way to combat avian influenza in wild birds in Scotland. The report, which analysed the flu outbreak among wild birds since 2021, advises the Avian Flu Task Force to implement conservation measures for birds that are particularly susceptible, along with enhanced disease surveillance, demographic monitoring, and continued research. The study found that once avian influenza is present in a wild bird population, it is difficult to control or reduce it, and short-term measures such as carcass removal or reducing human activity are unlikely to significantly reduce the impact of an outbreak on wild birds.
Australia at Risk of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Variant
Australia is at risk of a new, highly pathogenic variant of avian influenza (bird flu) which emerged in Europe in 2021. The new variant has killed millions of wild birds and has also spread to sea lions and seals. While it is unlikely to spread easily in humans, it poses a significant risk to Australia’s unique bird populations, including black swans, and could cause significant damage to poultry farms. The federal government plans to increase surveillance measures but there is no action plan in place for what happens if the virus arrives. There is also a risk that the virus could mix with the H7N7 variant which is still present in Australia, potentially creating a new, even more severe virus. The key to protecting birds and humans is rapid detection and tracking of viral outbreaks in wildlife.
Biden Administration Tests Vaccines to Fight Avian Flu, as Expensive Eggs and Poultry Could Become the New Normal for Farmers Coping with Year-Round Virus
The Biden administration is testing four vaccines to fight the latest outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza that has devastated US poultry farms and driven up egg prices. Two of the vaccines being tested were developed by the US Department of Agriculture, with the others from animal drugmaker Zoetis and Merck Animal Health. If the trials are successful, the next stage is identifying manufacturers, with an estimated 18- to 24-month timeline before having a commercial quantity of vaccine available that matches the currently circulating virus strain. Experts warn that the current aggressive strain may have become permanent in North America, posing dangers for pets and more uncertainty ahead for the cost of eggs.
New outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in South Africa
Two different virus variants have been linked to the latest outbreaks in South African poultry. In October 2022, South African authorities reported the detection of the H5N2 HPAI virus serotype for the first time in well over 11 years. Since May of 2021, the national veterinary service has officially registered with the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) more than 22,000 cases of HPAI linked to this virus serotype among the wild population. The number of outbreaks among Nigeria’s poultry has risen to 316 since the current outbreak wave began in December of 2020, and compensation of $1.05bn will be given to owners who have suffered HPAI-related losses. In Niger, the same virus variant was detected in mid-December of last year, following a four-month hiatus.
Avian Influenza Outbreak Spreads to South America and Raises Concerns About Transmission to Mammals and Humans
In the last 18 months, the world has experienced the biggest outbreak of avian influenza to date. Currently, the disease has expanded to South America and has primarily affected wild birds as opposed to domestic ones. However, scientists are now worried about a new development, which is the transmission of the lethal virus from birds to animals like sea lions in Peru, and whether this could potentially endanger humans.
First Human Death from H3N8 Avian Influenza Reported in China
A 56-year-old woman in China has died after testing positive for H3N8 avian influenza, marking the first human death from that strain of bird flu, according to the World Health Organization. The woman, who had pre-existing medical conditions including cancer, probably contracted the virus at a live poultry market, and the risk of further spread is low. All three people who contracted H3N8 in China are thought to have been exposed to the virus at live poultry markets. The H3N8 infection is unrelated to the H5N1 bird flu pandemic.
H3N8 Bird Flu Virus: A Highly Contagious Respiratory Illness with Potential for Cross-Species Transmission
The H3N8 bird flu virus, also known as equine influenza A virus, is a highly contagious respiratory illness that primarily affects animals but can infect humans. It was first identified in birds in 1963 and has been known to affect horses, dogs, donkeys, pigs, and seals. The virus is believed to have crossed the species barrier from horses to dogs in the 2000s and has caused outbreaks in both animals. In April 2023, the World Health Organization reported the world’s first human death from H3N8 bird flu infection. The virus is commonly found in wild birds and is known to have the ability to infect other species.
Cambodia’s Pandemic Preparedness: Quick Response to H5N1 Bird Flu Outbreak
Cambodia’s quick response to the death of an 11-year-old girl from the H5N1 strain of bird flu was honed by years of work with the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The country, one of Asia’s poorest, has fine-tuned its pandemic preparedness since COVID-19. The Cambodian government added hundreds of health workers to local response teams, built up laboratories so they could get genetic results in hours and crafted educational materials to teach the public how to protect themselves. The focus is on avian flu because cases in birds — wild and domesticated — have hit record levels. The economic impact has been severe for producers and consumers, with egg and chicken prices climbing steeply.
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