DEPARTMENT of Primary Industries (DPI) state director of avian influenza Simon Oliver says the recent outbreak of the H7 strain on an egg farm near Young is devastating for the poultry industry, but is in no way dangerous to humans.
Mr Oliver is leading the state coordination centre at the DPI offices in Orange, assigned with the disposal and disinfection of the disease commonly known as bird flu.
Although not the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain that has gained worldwide attention, the H7 strain in Young has killed close to 2000 chickens and that number is set to rise.
But with a specialist team of 20 people on the case, Mr Oliver was confident of a swift eradication of the influenza.
“It’s not widespread. The last one was 12 months ago in Maitland, which was successfully eradicated,” he said.
The Young egg farm is considerably larger than that in Maitland.
“It’s not serious to humans, but it’s serious to the industry,” Mr Oliver said.
Understandably, Mr Oliver says cleaning a virus off a property is a fairly thorough process and is likely to take about two months to complete.
In the meantime, he said poultry farmers should monitoring their chickens.
Any unusual recording of mortality should be reported.
“That’s the best sign, increased mortality,” Mr Oliver said.
On hand to help Mr Oliver with the case is Melbourne-based industry liaison officer, Dr Greg Underwood and Ministry for Primary Industries in New Zealand animal, marine and food response team member Dr Katie Hickey.
“It’s a good opportunity for me, we don’t have too many disease outbreaks in New Zealand,” Dr Hickey said.
“They’re quite slick at responding to disease outbreaks here.”
An expert in poultry health, Dr Underwood wanted to stress the H7 strain was of no danger to humans.
“This is not bird flu,” he said.
“The terminology can create confusion.”
Mr Oliver added: “People should also not be worried about eating poultry.
“There’s no food safety issue. There’s absolutely no risk at all.”
The Young outbreak is the seventh avian outbreak in Australia.
The first was in 1967 in Victoria, the next two were also in Victoria before outbreaks in Queensland and Tamworth in 1997, and then Maitland last year.