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Diseases of animals: Bird flu Avian influenza
Bird flu (avian influenza) is an extremely contagious viral disease of chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, guinea fowl, quail and pheasants. Many wild birds can carry and spread bird flu viruses without showing signs of disease. Harmful strains of the disease occur in Asia and if they get into Australia, could devastate the poultry industry and harm native birds. Some strains of bird flu can infect humans.
Keep a Top Watch
Report immediately any unusual signs of disease in your birds or in wild birds. Report anyone who you suspect might have illegally imported birds, bird products, feathers or eggs. Minimise the risk of the disease passing between wild birds and poultry: don’t let domestic and wild birds come into direct contact and don’t allow wild birds to contaminate the food and water of domestic birds.
Profile A harmful strain of bird flu could be carried into Australia in illegal imports of live birds, eggs or bird products. In addition, harmless virus that is already present in wild birds or that is carried in by migrating birds may change and become harmful. Once disease occurs in poultry, the spread can be very rapid.
Identification The virus causing the disease is variable and can range from highly lethal to mild with few abnormal signs. In milder forms, hens may lay soft-shelled eggs before ceasing to lay. Some birds may show a combination of coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, lack of appetite, ruffled feathers, fever, weakness and staggering. In severer cases, sick birds often appear drowsy with their heads touching the ground. Combs and wattles may be discoloured. The severest forms cause sudden death of a large number of birds. Expert veterinary examination and laboratory tests are required to distinguish bird flu from other diseases.
Birds with swollen heads
Swelling of combs and wattles
Bleeding In the legs
Distribution The disease occurs virtually worldwide. It tends to appear in flocks that are not managed with stringent biosecurity that includes good hygiene and strict isolation from wild birds.
Threat The disease could severely damage Australia’s broiler and layer industries. Some strains cause disease in people who are in close contact with infected birds. Response requires slaughter of infected flocks and those nearby, sometimes resulting in massive losses.
Quarantine Imports of live birds, eggs and bird products are not permitted except under strict conditions. Inspection at seaports and airports prevents soiled clothing and equipment from entering the country. Northern Australian Quarantine Strategy (NAQS) and State/Territory authorities monitor for bird flu through surveillance programs and public awareness.
Contact AQIS in northern Australia
Or contact a government or private vet, stock inspector or the Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888
05 Dec 2007