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Zoonotic Bird Flu News - from 25 Mar 2017




 AVIAN INFLUENZA SPREADS TO GEORGIA [KTIC, 28 Mar 2017]

BY USDA APHIS

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Georgia, the nation’s top poultry-producing state, confirmed Monday the likely presence of low pathogenic avian influenza. The state’s agriculture department confirmed the presumptive low pathogenic avian influenza in a northwestern Georgia county that borders Alabama and is near Tennessee, the sites of other reported avian influenza cases.

The virus was identified during routine pre-sale screening for a commercial facility and was confirmed as H7 avian influenza by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory. As a precaution, the affected flock has been depopulated.

Officials are testing and monitoring other flocks within the surveillance area and no other flocks have tested positive or experienced any clinical signs. Poultry contributes $25.9 billion to Georgia’s economy and accounts for 104,000 jobs in the state.



 State legislator: Minnesota must stay prepared for avian flu [Prairie Business, 28 Mar 2017]

By David Bly

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David Bly

ST. PAUL — Earlier this month, when we heard the news that a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza had been detected in chickens in Tennessee and then that a less pathogenic strain had been detected in Wisconsin, my mind turned to the devastation Minnesota's turkey producers saw in 2015.

These news reports bring anxiety to poultry farmers and legislators as we remember the 2015 outbreak here in Minnesota that cost more than $650 million, 100 farms their livelihood and the forced destruction of millions of birds.

The outbreaks in Tennessee and Wisconsin show that bird flu is still active and still a potential threat. In 2015, I authored legislation to provide an immediate response to the avian influenza outbreak. We're still prepared to meet the threat of an outbreak, but there have been troubling attempts to take funds from preparedness efforts and use them for other purposes, such as tax cuts.

We cannot allow that to happen when an outbreak could happen at any time.

Carol Cardona, University of Minnesota avian influenza expert, reports that, "We've seen evidence, in a bird in Alaska and one in Montana that the 2015 virus is still out there. So I know our poultry producers are on extreme alert right now."

The outbreak in Tennessee was the most dangerous category of bird flu. It most likely started as a low pathogenic virus and evolved into the deadly, highly pathogenic form.

Viruses are known to change quickly in environments like feedlots. In this case, more than 70,000 chickens were destroyed to limit the risk of spreading the disease.

Although the 2015 virus hasn't shown up in a poultry flock recently, tests in the past six months did find the bug in wild ducks in the U.S.

This has been a year of elevated bird flu activity around the globe. Europe and Asia have been hard hit, with more than a hundred people in China dying from avian flu infections.

Agriculture pumps $95 billion dollars a year into Minnesota's economy. The 2015 outbreak was the largest animal disease outbreak ever in the United States.

It's important to note that Minnesota first responded to this crisis with a trained incident management team from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. When the outbreak worsened, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service and a number of other state and federal agencies stepped up to help eradicate this highly contagious disease.

Throughout the five-month response, the MDA employees alone contributed 18,000 hours to the effort.

Protecting our state's agriculture sector from devastating threats and working to quickly minimize them when they do strike should be top of mind for all of us in St. Paul. Incident responders need to be ready to move at a moment's notice, and having resources available before emergencies occur are a better guarantee that our response will be quick and effective.

Following the 2015 outbreak, the Legislature established the Agricultural Emergency Account to address this need and create a fund for future outbreaks. There's concern that as some legislators look to fund tax cuts, they will look for places to find funds and may do away with the account and use the funds for other purposes.

We know the economic toll avian influenza had on our state in 2015. And that's just one disease that struck the poultry industry.

There are many animal diseases and other threats that could strike any part of our agriculture industry at any time without warning. Instead of worrying if we'll have the resources to immediately address a new emergency, let's stay prepared.

State Rep. Bly, DFL-Northfield, is the DFL lead on the House Agriculture Policy Committee.



 Bird flu found in Georgia [Atlanta Business Chronicle, 28 Mar 2017]

By Mark Meltzer

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A flock of chickens infected with bird flu was destroyed.

A case of bird flu has been discovered in Georgia for the first time.
The Georgia Department of Agriculture said Monday that a flock of chickens at a commercial poultry breeding operation located in Chattooga County, northwest of Rome, tested positive for avian influenza.

The virus was identified during a routine screening, the department said.

The flock of chickens was destroyed. The Associated Press reported that 18,000 chickens were killed.

Avian influenza does not pose a risk to the food supply, and no affected animals entered the food chain, the department said.

“Officials are testing and monitoring other flocks within the surveillance area and no other flocks have tested positive or experienced any clinical signs,” the department said.

The announcement follows similar confirmations from Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee in recent weeks.

“Poultry is the top sector of our number one industry, agriculture, and we are committed to protecting the livelihoods of the many farm families that are dependent on it,” said Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary W. Black. “In order to successfully do that, it is imperative that we continue our efforts of extensive biosecurity.”



 Bird flu infection leads to "destruction" of commercial chicken flock [WALB-TV, 28 Mar 2017]

By Chris Price

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A flock of chickens at a commercial poultry breeding operation located in Chattooga County has tested positive for H7, a form of bird flu.

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This means that the temporary suspension of all poultry exhibits has now been extended. (The suspension was originally put in place after officials found bird flu strains in Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky.)

The virus was identified during routine pre-sale screening for the commercial facility and was confirmed as H7 avian influenza by the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.

As a precaution, the affected flock has been depopulated.

Officials have been testing and monitoring other flocks within the same surveillance area and found that no other flocks are positive or experienced any clinical signs.

Officials said the risk of human infection with avian influenza during poultry outbreaks is very low. Wild birds are the source of the virus. Bird flu strains often occur naturally in wild birds and can infect migratory birds without causing illness.

"Poultry is the top sector of our number one industry--agriculture," said Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture, Gary W. Black. "It is imperative that we continue our efforts of extensive biosecurity."



 Bird flu found in chicken flock at GA farm [WSPA.com, 28 Mar 2017]

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SUMMERVILLE, Ga. (AP) — About 18,000 chickens were destroyed at a northwest Georgia poultry farm after tests confirmed avian influenza in the flock, the first time the disease has been detected in commercial birds in the state, authorities said Monday.

The infected chickens were flagged by routine screening at a poultry breeder in Georgia’s Chattooga County, said Julie McPeake, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Surveillance monitoring of all other commercial operations within a 6-mile radius found no further infections. State officials also planned to check all backyard breeders within 2 miles.
Poultry is the No. 1 agricultural sector in Georgia, with breeders and processing plants having an estimated annual $25.9 billion impact statewide.

“We have never had avian influenza in a commercial flock in Georgia,” McPeake said. “This is the first one.”

Chattooga County, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northwest of Atlanta, is on the Georgia-Alabama state line and not far from Tennessee. Both neighboring states, along with Kentucky, also have reported bird flu in poultry flocks in recent weeks.

Officials in Georgia and the other states say no infected birds have entered the nation’s poultry supply, and the U.S. food chain isn’t at risk. While the disease can devastate bird populations, it rarely jumps to humans.

None of the infected birds in Georgia showed any symptoms, McPeake said, leading officials to believe they had a low-pathogenic form of the disease like those in Alabama and Kentucky.

High-pathogenic bird flu, a deadlier form of the illness, was detected this month in Tennessee, where 145,000 birds were destroyed.

Overall, more than 225,000 birds have been euthanized because of the disease in the four Southern states. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said earlier this month a flock of 84,000 turkeys had been confirmed with a low-pathogenic bird flu virus in Wisconsin.

The viruses in the current outbreaks are different from the high-pathogenic virus that resulted in the loss of nearly 50 million birds in the Midwest chicken egg and turkey industry in 2015.



 Georgia poultry company struck by strain of bird flu as virus spreads through southeast [MarketWatch, 28 Mar 2017]

By Cameron McWhirter

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About 18,000 chickens were destroyed in latest outbreak, putting state with biggest poultry industry in the U.S. on high alert

A Georgia commercial poultry company has been struck by a strain of bird flu that has been spreading through the southeast U.S., putting producers in the state with the nation’s largest poultry industry on high alert.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture said Monday that a low pathogenic strain of avian influenza had been identified in a commercial flock in Chattooga County, on the border with Alabama. As a precaution, about 18,000 chickens were destroyed on the farm, which hasn’t been identified.

This bird flu virus, the first identified among commercial chickens in Georgia, poses a very low risk to humans and the food supply, Georgia State Veterinarian Robert Cobb Jr. said Tuesday. The concern is the strain, highly contagious among chickens and carried by wild birds, can mutate into a more deadly version, according to Dr. Cobb. “It likes to change,” he said.

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New Bird Flu Strain Threatens U.S. Flocks. Researchers fear that migratory birds from other parts of the world may bring new strains of the avian flu to the U.S. A strain of the virus is currently decimating millions of birds in Europe and Asia. Photo: Philippe Huguen/Agence France-Presse

Georgia’s news followed reports of confirmed infected flocks in Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee in recent weeks. In Tennessee, a highly pathogenic avian flu has been detected in two commercial flocks of chickens located less than two miles apart, while another case of the less virulent strain was found in another county. Last week, the low pathogenic avian virus was detected in Kentucky resulting in a loss of 22,000 hens.



 Bird flu confirmed at Chattooga County chicken plant [WTVC, 28 Mar 2017]

by Taylor Ellis

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A flock of chickens at a poultry plant in Chattooga County tested positive for H7, a low pathogenic bird flu. (Image: MGN)

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — A flock of chickens at a poultry plant in Chattooga County tested positive for H7, a low pathogenic bird flu.

This is the first time that bird flu has been confirmed at plants in Georgia.
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The virus was found during pre-sale screening for the facility and was confirmed as H7 avian influenza by the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa.

Chickens from the affected flock were removed from the facility.

No other flocks at the plant have tested positive or experienced any signs of bird flu.

Bird flu has been confirmed in Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee in recent weeks.

No animals affected with bird flu at the plan were processed.

The risk of human infection with avian influenza during poultry outbreaks is very low.



 Bird flu confirmed in GA; 18,000 birds destroyed [WRCB-TV, 28 Mar 2017]

CHATTOOGA COUNTY, GA (WRCB) -

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The Georgia Department of Agriculture reports that the state's first case of avian influenza (bird flu) has been found in Chattooga County.

Chickens, part of a flock of 18,000 birds at a commercial poultry breeding operation tested positive for H7, presumptive low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI).

Officials for the GDA say this is the first confirmation of avian influenza in domestic poultry in Georgia.

Avian influenza does not pose a risk to the food supply, and no affected animals entered the food chain. The risk of human infection with avian influenza during poultry outbreaks is very low.

The virus was identified during routine pre-sale screening for the commercial facility and was confirmed as H7 avian influenza by the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa. As a precaution, the affected flock has been destroyed.

Officials are testing and monitoring other flocks within the surveillance area and no other flocks have tested positive or experienced any clinical signs.

Earlier this year, similar confirmations were reported in Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Owners of poultry flocks are encouraged to closely observe their birds and report a sudden increase in the number of sick birds or bird deaths to the state veterinarian’s office at (855) 491-1432.



 Bird flu found in chicken flock at northwest Georgia farm [STL Today, 28 Mar 2017]

SUMMERVILLE, Ga. • Avian influenza has been confirmed in a flock of chickens at a commercial farm in northwest Georgia.

Julie McPeake, spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, said Monday it's the first time bird flu has ever been found in commercial flocks in Georgia. She said routine screening detected the infected chickens at a poultry breeder in Chattooga County and all 18,000 chickens in the flock were euthanized.

McPeake said none of the birds showed symptoms, leading agriculture officials to suspect they were infected with low-pathogenic bird flu. None of the infected chickens entered the food supply.

Chattooga County is located on the Georgia-Alabama state line, two counties away from Tennessee. Both neighboring states, as well as Kentucky, have also detected bird flu in poultry flocks in recent weeks.




 Midstate farmers watching for avian flu [The Sentinel, 28 Mar 2017]

by Andrew Forgotch

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Chickens are seen inside a portable backyard coop (Dean Fosdick photos, Associated Press)

ELIZABETHTOWN – Jonathan Groff has about 100 pastured chickens at Thousand Hills Farms.
Since his birds have easy access to the outdoors, the bird flu is always on his mind.

“We always look for sick birds,” Groff told ABC27 News.

Since the avian influenza has been found in four states, most of which are in the south, the fear is that birds like ducks and geese will carry the strain north as they migrate and pass it along to birds in the Midstate.

“We keep the feeders inside and undercover and try to prevent wild birds from being attracted to the place,” Groff said.

Dr. Gregory Martin, a poultry educator with Penn State Extension, said farmers are being told to keep their birds inside.

However, Martin said at a time when free range chickens are in demand, the advice is easier said than done.

“The main thing is to make sure we practice good biosecurity for the time period we have now and hope for the best; that we don’t have the flu appear in Pennsylvania,” he said.

Martin said the current strain of avian flu doesn’t have an impact on food safety-related issues.



 First Case Of Avian Flu Found In Georgia Poultry [GA Patch, 27 Mar 2017]

The H7 strain is considered a presumptive low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI), but Georgia officials are taking no chances.

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Photo courtesy of the Georgia Department of Agriculture

ATLANTA, GA — The state of Georgia has confirmed its first case
of the Avian Influenza among domestic poultry.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture said Monday morning that a flock of chickens at a commercial poultry breeding operation in Chattooga County has tested positive for H7, a presumptive low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI).

This marks the state’s first case of the avian influenza in domestic poultry. Avian influenza does not pose a risk to the food supply, and no affected animals entered the food chain. The risk of human infection with avian influenza during poultry outbreaks is very low, according to the GDA.

The virus was identified during routine pre-sale screening for the commercial facility and was confirmed as H7 avian influenza by the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa. As a precaution, the affected flock has been destroyed. Officials are testing and monitoring other flocks within the surveillance area, and no other flocks have tested positive or experienced any clinical signs, according to the state release.

“Poultry is the top sector of our number one industry, agriculture, and we are committed to protecting the livelihoods of the many farm families that are dependent on it,” Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary W. Black said in a statement. “In order to successfully do that, it is imperative that we continue our efforts of extensive biosecurity.”

The announcement follows similar confirmations from Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee in recent weeks. The Tennessee case involved the more lethal avian flu’s HPA1 strain, which is known to be deadly to domesticated poultry such as chickens, turkeys, guineas, quail and peafowls. Officials, however, stressed that the HPA1 avian flu posed no risk to the food supply and “very low” chance of human infection.

The Georgia case is considered a presumptive low pathogenic avian influenza because the flock did not show any signs of illness. While LPAI is different from the more deadly HPAI, control measures are underway as a precautionary measure. Wild birds are the source of the virus.

Avian influenza virus strains often occur naturally in wild birds and can infect wild migratory birds without causing illness.

But as an added precaution, the official state order prohibiting poultry exhibitions and the assembling of poultry to be sold issued by the state veterinarian’s office on March 16 remains in effect. The order prohibits all poultry exhibitions, sales at regional and county fairs, festivals, swap meets, live bird markets, flea markets and auctions. The order also prohibits the concentration, collection or assembly of poultry of all types, including wild waterfowl, from one or more premises for purposes of sale.

Shipments of eggs or baby chicks from National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP), Avian Influenza Clean, approved facilities are not affected by this order.

Common bio-security steps typically include keeping your birds isolated from other birds and visitors, keeping everything clean, cleaning vehicles and cages, avoiding sharing tools with neighbors and knowing all the warning signs of infectious bird diseases.

Owners of poultry flocks are encouraged to closely observe their birds and report a sudden increase in the number of sick birds or bird deaths to the state veterinarian’s office at (855) 491-1432. For more updates and information regarding biosecurity tips visit ☞ Avian Influenza Response Center 
or ☞ AVIAN INFLUENZA ALERT  .

The poultry industry annually contributes 38 billion to the Georgia economy, with 102 counties producing more than $1 million worth of poultry products each year, according to the Georgia Poultry Foundation.



 Bird flu found in chicken flock at northwest Georgia farm [AL.com, 27 Mar 2017]

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State officials say they may have found bird flu in three north Alabama chicken houses. This file image shows commercial chickens in their houses, and raising them is Alabama's No. 1 agricultural product. (Photo courtesy AL.com news partner WHNT News 19)

About 18,000 chickens were destroyed at a northwest Georgia poultry farm after tests confirmed avian influenza in the flock, the first time the disease has been detected in commercial birds in the state, authorities said Monday.

The infected chickens were flagged by routine screening at a poultry breeder in Georgia's Chattooga County, said Julie McPeake, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Surveillance monitoring of all other commercial operations within a 6-mile radius found no further infections. State officials also planned to check all backyard breeders within 2 miles.

Poultry is the No. 1 agricultural sector in Georgia, with breeders and processing plants having an estimated annual $25.9 billion impact statewide.

"We have never had avian influenza in a commercial flock in Georgia," McPeake said. "This is the first one."

Chattooga County, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northwest of Atlanta, is on the Georgia-Alabama state line and not far from Tennessee. Both neighboring states, along with Kentucky, also have reported bird flu in poultry flocks in recent weeks.

Officials in Georgia and the other states say no infected birds have entered the nation's poultry supply, and the U.S. food chain isn't at risk. While the disease can devastate bird populations, it rarely jumps to humans.

None of the infected birds in Georgia showed any symptoms, McPeake said, leading officials to believe they had a low-pathogenic form of the disease like those in Alabama and Kentucky.

High-pathogenic bird flu, a deadlier form of the illness, was detected this month in Tennessee, where 145,000 birds were destroyed.

Overall, more than 225,000 birds have been euthanized because of the disease in the four Southern states. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said earlier this month a flock of 84,000 turkeys had been confirmed with a low-pathogenic bird flu virus in Wisconsin.

The viruses in the current outbreaks are different from the high-pathogenic virus that resulted in the loss of nearly 50 million birds in the Midwest chicken egg and turkey industry in 2015.



 Bird flu hits Chiayi poultry farm [Focus Taiwan News Channel, 27 Mar 2017]

201703270029t0001.jpg
(Photo courtesy of Chiayi Livestock Disease Control Office)

Taipei, March 27 (CNA) A poultry farm in Liujiao Township of Chiayi County, southern Taiwan, was confirmed Monday to be infected with the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus, leading to the culling of 13,349 birds, the county's Livestock Disease Control Office said.

This was the third poultry farm hit by avian influenza subtype H5 in the southern Taiwanese county so far this year, according to data released by the Cabinet-level Council of Agriculture (COA).

As of 6 p.m. Monday, a total of 1,009,068 birds have been destroyed at 110 poultry farms infected with highly pathogenic avian flu viruses across Taiwan since the beginning of this year.

The infected poultry farms were located in Taoyuan City in northern Taiwan; Changhua and Yunlin counties in central Taiwan; Chiayi, Tainan, Kaohsiung and Pingtung county and cities in the south; and Yilan and Hualien counties in the east, COA data shows.

(By Huang Kuo-fang and Romulo Huang)



 Midstate farmers watching for avian flu [ABC27, 27 Mar 2017]

By Andrew Forgotch

Mid-.jpg


ELIZABETHTOWN, Pa. (WHTM) – Jonathan Groff has about 100 pastured chickens at Thousand Hills Farms.

Since his birds have easy access to the outdoors, the bird flu is always on his mind.

“We always look for sick birds,” Groff told ABC27 News.

Since the dreaded avian influenza has been found in four states, most of which are in the south, the fear is that birds like ducks and geese will carry the strain north as they migrate and pass it along to birds in the Midstate.

“We keep the feeders inside and undercover and try to prevent wild birds from being attracted to the place,” Groff said.

Dr. Gregory Martin, a poultry educator with Penn State Extension, said farmers are being told to keep their birds inside.

However, Martin said at a time when free range chickens are in demand, the advice is easier said than done.

“The main thing is to make sure we practice good biosecurity for the time period we have now and hope for the best; that we don’t have the flu appear in Pennsylvania,” he said.

Martin said the current strain of avian flu doesn’t have an impact on food safety-related issues.

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 Cal-Maine still suffering effects of previous bird flu outbreak [Agrimoney.com, 27 Mar 2017]

US egg company Cal-Maine Foods is still suffering from the after-effects of the last bird-flu outbreak, even as concerns about new cases mount.

Cal-Maine shares fell over 6% in pre-market trade after the egg distribution company reported lower than expected earnings.

Dolph Baker, chairman and chief executive officer of Cal-Maine, ascribed the results to "volatile market conditions"

Falling egg price

"Our results were affected by lower market prices and weaker demand trends compared with the third quarter last year," Mr Baker said.

The average selling price of eggs was down 28% year-on-year over the three months of February 25.

"The egg markets have remained under pressure, and we do not expect to see any meaningful improvement until there is a better balance of supply and demand," Mr Baker said.

Demand slow to recover

Egg prices are under pressure from rebounding production, after a sharp reduction from the 2015 bird flu outbreak.

"United States Department of Agriculture data showed that the egg industry repopulated farms and laying hen numbers were reported to approach pre-bird flu levels," Mr Baker said.

"The younger, more productive hen population has resulted in a greater number of eggs."
But while production has bounced back, demand has remained supressed.

Mr Baker noted that many commercial buyers have "reformulated their products to use fewer eggs when prices spiked and have been slow to resume previous egg usage".

"Together, these factors have created an oversupply of eggs, with continued pressure on market prices," Mr Baker said.

Little risk from current outbreak

But Mr Baker downplayed the risk from recent cases of bird flu in the US, noting that flock biosecurity has been enhanced since the last outbreak.

"Over the past month, there have been reported outbreaks of avian invluenza in certain poultry operations located in southeastern states," Mr Baker said.

"None of these outbreaks has affected the commercial table egg layer flock, and there have been no positive tests for avian influenza at any Cal-Maine Foods locations."

Profits, earnings miss expectations

The egg company reported a net income of $4.1m over the three months to February 25, compared to $64.2m a year ago.

Earnings per share were $0.09, compared to analyst expectations of $0.20 a share.

Revenues also missed expectations, at $306.5m, compared to analyst forecasts of $325m, down from $449.8m in the same period a year ago.

Cal-Maine will not pay a dividend for the quarter.



 Bird flu found in chicken flock at northwest Georgia farm [Phys.Org, 27 Mar 2017]

About 18,000 chickens were destroyed at a northwest Georgia poultry farm after tests confirmed avian influenza in the flock, the first time the disease has been detected in commercial birds in the state, authorities said Monday. The infected chickens were flagged by routine screening at a poultry breeder in Georgia's Chattooga County, said Julie McPeake, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Surveillance monitoring of all other commercial operations within a 6-mile radius found no further infections. State officials also planned to check all backyard breeders within 2 miles.

Poultry is the No. 1 agricultural sector in Georgia, with breeders and processing plants having an estimated annual $25.9 billion impact statewide.

"We have never had avian influenza in a commercial flock in Georgia," McPeake said. "This is the first one."

Chattooga County, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northwest of Atlanta, is on the Georgia-Alabama state line and not far from Tennessee. Both neighboring states, along with Kentucky, also have reported bird flu in poultry flocks in recent weeks.

Officials in Georgia and the other states say no infected birds have entered the nation's poultry supply, and the U.S. food chain isn't at risk. While the disease can devastate bird populations, it rarely jumps to humans.

None of the infected birds in Georgia showed any symptoms, McPeake said, leading officials to believe they had a low-pathogenic form of the disease like those in Alabama and Kentucky.

High-pathogenic bird flu, a deadlier form of the illness, was detected this month in Tennessee, where 145,000 birds were destroyed.

Overall, more than 225,000 birds have been euthanized because of the disease in the four Southern states. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said earlier this month a flock of 84,000 turkeys had been confirmed with a low-pathogenic bird flu virus in Wisconsin.

The viruses in the current outbreaks are different from the high-pathogenic virus that resulted in the loss of nearly 50 million birds in the Midwest chicken egg and turkey industry in 2015.



 Bird flu spreads to Chattooga County, Georgia [Knoxville News Sentinel, 27 Mar 2017]

by Mike Pare

mike pare.jpg
Dr. Lew Strickland, UT Extension Services Veterinarian, talks Monday, Mar. 6, 2017 about the announcement of a strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) detected in a commercial chicken flock in Lincoln County in southern Middle Tennessee. Michael Patrick/News Sentinel

A flock of chickens at a commercial poultry breeding operation located in Chattooga County, Ga., has tested positive for bird flu in the first reported outbreak in that state.

1488856854_0322LL-birdflu-6in-bw_t1070_hdb5690047dc7c935d495bd0cb5cc4643d71b32dc.jpg
Bird flu can make people sick only if they've been directly exposed to infected birds. But the strain of bird flu could change itself into a brand-new strain that allows it to jump from human to human. (Kelly Bennett/KRT)
Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture said that H7, a presumptive low pathogenic avian influenza, was discovered after prior outbreaks in Middle Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky.

The department said that Avian influenza does not pose a risk to the food supply, and no affected animals entered the food chain. The risk of human infection with avian influenza during poultry outbreaks is "very low," according to the department.

It said the virus was identified during routine pre-sale screening for a commercial facility and was confirmed as H7 avian influenza by the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.

As a precaution the affected flock has been depopulated. Officials are testing and monitoring other flocks within the surveillance area and no other flocks have tested positive or experienced any clinical signs.

The Georgia case is considered a presumptive low pathogenic avian influenza because the flock did not show any signs of illness. While LPAI is different from HPAI, control measures are under way as a precautionary measure. Wild birds are the source of the virus, the department said.

Avian influenza virus strains often occur naturally in wild birds, and can infect wild migratory birds without causing illness.

"Poultry is the top sector of our number one industry, agriculture, and we are committed to protecting the livelihoods of the many farm families that are dependent on it," said Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary W. Black, in a statement. "In order to successfully do that, it is imperative that we continue our efforts of extensive biosecurity."



 Bird flu found in chicken flock at northwest Georgia farm [The Seattle Times, 27 Mar 2017]

Officials in Georgia and the other states say no infected birds have entered the nation's poultry supply, and the U.S. food chain isn't at risk. While the disease can devastate bird populations, it rarely jumps to humans.

SUMMERVILLE, Ga. — About 18,000 chickens were destroyed at a northwest Georgia poultry farm after tests confirmed avian influenza in the flock, the first time the disease has been detected in commercial birds in the state, authorities said Monday.

The infected chickens were flagged by routine screening at a poultry breeder in Georgia’s Chattooga County, said Julie McPeake, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Surveillance monitoring of all other commercial operations within a 6-mile radius found no further infections. State officials also planned to check all backyard breeders within 2 miles.

Poultry is the No. 1 agricultural sector in Georgia, with breeders and processing plants having an estimated annual $25.9 billion impact statewide.

“We have never had avian influenza in a commercial flock in Georgia,” McPeake said. “This is the first one.”

Chattooga County, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northwest of Atlanta, is on the Georgia-Alabama state line and not far from Tennessee. Both neighboring states, along with Kentucky, also have reported bird flu in poultry flocks in recent weeks.

Officials in Georgia and the other states say no infected birds have entered the nation’s poultry supply, and the U.S. food chain isn’t at risk. While the disease can devastate bird populations, it rarely jumps to humans.

None of the infected birds in Georgia showed any symptoms, McPeake said, leading officials to believe they had a low-pathogenic form of the disease like those in Alabama and Kentucky.

High-pathogenic bird flu, a deadlier form of the illness, was detected this month in Tennessee, where 145,000 birds were destroyed.

Overall, more than 225,000 birds have been euthanized because of the disease in the four Southern states. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said earlier this month a flock of 84,000 turkeys had been confirmed with a low-pathogenic bird flu virus in Wisconsin.

The viruses in the current outbreaks are different from the high-pathogenic virus that resulted in the loss of nearly 50 million birds in the Midwest chicken egg and turkey industry in 2015.



 Bird flu found in Georgia chicken flock [Atlanta Journal Constitution, 27 Mar 2017]

by Aaron Gould Shannon

photos.medleyphoto.12241039.jpg
Young broilers are seen in a Georgia chicken house in 2012. The state announced Monday, March 27, 2017, that a low pathonegic strain of avian flu was discovered in a Georgia chicken processing plant.

A flock of chickens in a Chattooga County commercial farm has tested positive for a low-pathogenic strain of the avian flu, the state Department of Agriculture said Monday.
It is the first confirmation of bird flu in commercial poultry in Georgia.

The entire flock was killed as a precaution, although Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black’s office said no infected animals entered the food chain and this strain of the avian flu does not threaten the food supply.

“Poultry is the top sector of our number one industry, agriculture, and we are committed to protecting the livelihoods of the many farm families that are dependent on it,” Black said . “In order to successfully do that, it is imperative that we continue our efforts of extensive biosecurity.”

Georgia takes steps to protect poultry from bird flu

Poultry contributes $25.9 billion to Georgia’s economy and accounts for more than 100,000 jobs in the state.

The low-pathogenic strain of the H7 avian flu is less worrisome than the high-pathogenic flu, which is “the one that is deadly to our poultry flock,” Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Julie McPeake said.

This particular strain, however, has the potential to mutate into the high-pathogenic, which is why the state is taking no risks.

“It is a virus,” McPeake said. “It is contagious.”

A similar strain of the virus was previously found in Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee. The diagnosis was confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s laboratory in Ames, Iowa.

Black had already announced a ban on poultry exhibitions, sales at local fairs and festivals because of the threat of avian flu.



 Bird flu could hit European poultry exports [FG Insight, 27 Mar 2017]

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But Thailand and Brazil could see big export wins

Bird flu could lead to a 105,000-tonne fall in the amount of chicken meat exported from the European Union this year, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

It would be an 8.9 per cent decline in volumes, the biggest fall in 16 years.

Importers such as South Africa and the Philippines have placed restrictions on EU meat following various outbreaks of bird flu across the union.

Europe

Outbreaks have been reported across most EU countries. It has hit France, which has the largest poultry flock in the EU, particularly hard.

But EU prices have so far shown little reaction since the first discovery of the H5N8 strain in Hungary in October 2016.

Thailand has also not seen an uplift in prices as it targets replacing exports from affected countries such as the US. There have been no reports of the disease in Thailand.

According to figures from Rabobank, Thailand increased its total exports by 6 per cent in 2016 and the reopening of raw meat exports to South Korea and Singapore could provide additional growth.

Golden Opportunity

The Thai Government has estimated a 4 per cent rise in poultry exports. However, this ‘golden opportunity’ will only exist if the country can remain disease free.

Rabobank senior animal protein analyst Nan-Dirk Mulder said the impact on the global trade was significant.

“The recent Chinese human avian flu cases dramatically turned Chinese market conditions, especially at wet markets, and this will indirectly reduce the appetite for poultry imports in the coming months,” he said.

“This will affect global markets for wings, feet, and legs – especially Brazil, which is a major exporter to China.”

He added there were some suspicious cases of human to human infections of the H7N9 strain which had the potential to cause a pandemic.

Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan have put restrictions on imports of US poultry meat, which has provided a further opportunity for Thai exports.

Brazil

Brazil could also benefit from the epidemic if it can remain disease free.

USDA estimated Brazilian exports could grow by 10 per cent in 2017 ‘mostly due to the negative impact of avian influenza in several countries’.



 Bird flu: Live birds from Malaysia banned by Saudi Arabia [Free Malaysia Today, 27 Mar 2017]

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Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture imposes the temporary import ban after a warning from the World Organisation for Animal Health.

PETALING JAYA: The outbreak of the H5N1 avian influenza virus has led to the Saudi Arabian government taking precautionary measures by imposing an import ban on live birds from Malaysia.

In a report by the Arab News, the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture in Riyadh announced the temporary ban on the import of live birds, hatching eggs and chicks from Malaysia after a warning was issued by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

Also affected by the temporary import ban was the state of Tennessee in the US, after the OIE issued the same warning.

However in a report by Bernama on March 25, the Veterinary Services Department assured Malaysian consumers that broiler chickens and eggs available in the market were safe for consumption.

The department said the products were supplied by the country’s chicken breeders and operators, and were certified free from the H5N1 avian flu.

It also said breeders and operators were constantly monitoring the situation and imposing controls on the birds’ movement in their respective states.



 Land of the short white feather: NZ's unlikely bird flu success [Reuters, 27 Mar 2017]

By Dominique Patton and Charlotte Greenfield

The deadly bird flu that's forced mass bird culls and roiled the global egg and poultry trade has spawned one unlikely success – New Zealand, a rare source of disease-free birds and supplier for China's voracious chicken consumption.

When Spain reported an outbreak of H5N8 bird flu last month, it left New Zealand as the only source, albeit a tiny one, of disease-free birds to replenish China's white-feathered broiler chicken stock.

China, the world's second-largest poultry consumer, relies on imports for its supply of white feather chicken, which are favoured by fast-food chains for their more rapid development and plumper meat, compared with yellow-feathered birds, which are native to China and generally sold retail.

New Zealand's live chicken exports to China soared more than ten-fold last year and analysts expect rapid growth again this year.

The world's major poultry companies are looking to take advantage of the Pacific island's clean credentials, which could create an upstream boon for local industry.

"Geography's a disadvantage from a freighting point of view, but it's a big advantage because we're not on the major flyways of any birds that are likely to carry the disease down here," said Brent Williams, general manager of Bromley Park Hatcheries, a New Zealand-based firm that raises pedigree stock for Cobb-Vantress.

Century-old Cobb, headquartered in Arkansas, is one of the world's top poultry breeders, selling pedigree "grandparent" day-old chicks to Chinese companies.

Cobb-Vantress is seeking approval to build new breeding facilities in New Zealand, said Clark Baird, media relations director at the firm, though he declined to reveal the location or production volumes targeted by the new plant.

Other major global poultry breeders which have operations in New Zealand include United
States-based Aviagen, which raises great grandparent stock in the country to supply Asian markets with their offspring.

Aviagen said it does not disclose information on its supply chain and production.

FALLING SHORT

It's luck of geography that means New Zealand is now the sole supplier of breeder birds to China.

Its isolated location away from birds' flight paths means it has escaped an outbreak of the deadly viruses that have spread around the globe in recent months.

However, it has always been a relative minnow in the live poultry export trade. Exports to China surged last year but to a mere NZ$9.8 million ($6.78 million).

In 2016, New Zealand sold about 200,000 packages of grandparent chicks to China, according to industry sources. The packages, typically containing around 170 day-old chicks, currently sell for about $28 each.

That compares with about 300,000 from Spain in 2016.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture in a report warns the island can't offset the loss in production from elsewhere, depleting China's breeder stock and cutting China's output of meat by 11 percent this year.

The department said China's lack of new grandparent breeding stock will be the "greatest obstacle" to increasing its poultry production, a problem for a country of 1.4 billion that has rapidly developed a hankering for fast food chicken.

Meanwhile, ongoing disruptions from China's main suppliers will only add to problems.

A recent outbreak of bird flu in Tennessee in the United States suggests that Beijing is unlikely to lift a ban imposed in 2015 due to bird flu.

Before that ban, the United State was China's top supplier, providing 90 percent of its white-bird grandparent stock.

There is also the risk that New Zealand loses its status as a pristine poultry producer.

David Fyfe, Asia business director at Hubbard Breeders, another producer of broiler chicken breeds, owned by France's Groupe Grimaud, warns it may be "just a matter of time" before New Zealand reports a case of avian influenza.

His firm has "no immediate plans" to set up a breeding operation there, he added.

For now, however, Pan Chenjun, an analyst at Rabobank, expects prices will be "strongly supported" by the fall in production in China. That might help offset the demand-side hit the industry has taken in recent years, with prices languishing at decade lows due to China's own bird flu outbreaks and overproduction.

And over the longer-term, higher prices could give a further boost to chicken exporters, like New Zealand.

(Reporting by Dominique Patton in BEIJING and Charlotte Greenfield in WELLINGTON; editing by Josephine Mason and Sam Holmes)



 Taiwan reports new outbreak of bird flu [Xinhua, 26 Mar 2017]

TAIPEI, March 26 (Xinhua) -- Taiwan has confirmed a new outbreak of bird flu at two poultry farms and culled more than 14,000 birds to prevent further infection, according to the local animal inspection authority.

Ducks at a farm in Pingdong county were confirmed with the H5N2 virus and more than 6,000 were culled.

A chicken farm in Tainan city also reported outbreak of an H5-type virus on Saturday, and more than 8,000 chicken were slaughtered.

Taiwan is a common destination for migrating birds. Its farms have reported more than 15 avian flu cases this year, including cases related to the highly pathogenic H5N6 virus.

The general bird flu situation is "under steady control" despite sporadic infections, the animal inspection authority said.

It warned farms to strengthen quarantine and sanitation work and report any unusual death of poultry. Those who report infections will get compensation for culled poultry, while cover-ups will lead to hefty fines.



 Infectious diseases A-Z: avian influenza outbreaks [The Guam Daily Post (press release) (registration), 26 Mar 2017]

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LOW RISK: The Centers for Disease and Prevention says the risk to the public's health from the avian influenza A(H7N9) virus outbreak in commercial poultry in the U.S. is low. Dreamstime

North American outbreaks of avian influenza A(H7N9) — often referred to as "bird flu" — have public health officials paying close attention.

The Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) says the risk to the public's health from the H7N9 virus outbreak in commercial poultry in the U.S. is low. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says this is not the same virus that has affected poultry and infected humans in Asia. In China, there have been recent confirmed cases of human infections of A(H7N9) virus.

Human infections with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus were first reported in China in 2013.

"When we're talking about avian influenza cases affecting humans, it is in people who have had close contact with poultry or other types of birds that could carry or get infected with avian influenza," says Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist Dr. Pritish Tosh. "Often in these outbreaks, you will see a handful of cases of people who have had no contact with a sick bird as part of the outbreak but instead got it from somebody else who got it from a sick bird.

"When we start to see really highly efficient transmission between people, human-to-human transmission of a novel strain, that's when we get really concerned that this could be the next pandemic strain."

Most avian influenza is spread worldwide by migratory waterfowl which then can pass it along to poultry. In humans, influenza is a respiratory illness. In birds, it is a gastrointestinal illness.
Tosh says, "Avian influenza viruses infecting humans are similar in many ways to human influenza viruses infecting humans. It's often spread through respiratory droplets or other respiratory kinds of secretions from person-to-person. Often, the person who's getting it from a sick bird is getting it through their droppings. But when it's spread from person- to- person, it's through their respiratory secretions — usually through droplets."

The CDC offers these tips to prevent exposure:

• Avoid wild birds, or observe them only from a distance.
• Avoid contact with poultry that appear ill or have died.
• Avoid contact with surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from wild or domestic birds.

"It's important that if somebody were to go near poultry, whether in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world, and develop some sort of respiratory infection, that they let his or her health care provider know," says Tosh.



 270,000 chickens culled in Japan after bird flu found [Bangkok Post, 26 Mar 2017]

SENDAI, JAPAN - A local government in northeastern Japan finished culling roughly 209,000 chickens on Sunday at a poultry farm following the outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5 strain of bird flu.

Meanwhile, the Chiba prefectural government in eastern Japan, which also detected the virus in chickens at a local farm, finished culling 62,000 chickens on Saturday.

The Miyagi prefectural government will bury the dead birds underground and disinfect poultry houses, it said. It initially planned to cull 220,000 chickens but later reduced the number of birds subject to culling by about 11,000.

The two governments started culling the chickens on Friday with help from Self-Defence Forces personnel in the latest series of bird flu outbreaks in the country.

Since November last year, the H5 virus has been detected at poultry farms in Niigata, Aomori, Hokkaido and Miyazaki prefectures.

According to the Miyagi prefectural government, a total of 96 chickens were found dead over three days through Thursday at a poultry farm in the city of Kurihara. Six of them tested positive in a preliminary screening.

In Chiba, a total of 118 chickens were found dead in the same three-day period at a farm in Asahi and 10 tested positive in a preliminary test.

Subsequent generic exams detected the highly virulent H5N6 strain of avian influenza in both cases.



 Authorities on high alert after detection of bird flu in Kaski and Sunsari [The Kathmandu Post, 26 Mar 2017]

Authorities in Chitwan are on high alert after detecting avian influenza –H5N1 – in chickens in Kaski and Sunsari districts.

Chitwan, which produces almost half of the total production of chickens in the country, has not detected the bird flu in its production.

According to District Livestock Service Office, Chitwan Chief, Prof Dilliram Sedai, prophylactic antiviral medicines have been spread on the vehicles that enter and head out of the district with supplies of chickens.

The vehicles supplying chickens to Kathmandu and Pokhara have been cleaned thoroughly with antiviral medicines at Bharatpur's Jugedi and eastern areas of Hetauda before allowing entrance into Chitwan.

The chicken production sector has an investment surpassing Rs 70 billion of which more than 50 per cent investment is in Chitwan alone. RSS



 Chitwan on high alert for bird flu [Himalayan Times, 26 Mar 2017]

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A poultry farm in Ratnanagar of Chitwan district, as captured on Wednesday, March 22, 2017. Chitwan district is famous for poulty farming. Photo: RSS

Chitwan has been on high alert against bird flu, after the disease was detected among chickens in many places across the country.

Chief of the National Bird Disease Research Laboratory Bharatpur Dr Dayaram Chapagain said they had been on high alert after bird flu was detected in Kaski and Sunsari districts.

Chapagain said 10 samples of chickens suspected of flu had been sent to Kathmandu for test. He said that the H1N1 strand of virus, which is more dangerous than H9N2, had not been detected in the district till date.

Chief of the District Livestock Service Office Chitwan Dr Dilliram Sedhai said vehicles carrying poultry-related items were sprayed with medicine while entering and exiting the district to prevent bird flu from entering the district.

According to Sedhai, his office is in constant discussion with various organisations associated with poultry. Sedhai said the risk of bird flu with their tough security measures was very low.

He said his office had urged poultry associations to spread awareness among people and to take strong measures against the flu.

Central Chairperson of the Egg Producers’ Association Shivram KC said that they had paid special attention to biological security in their firms. KC claimed that bird flu would not strike the district as even small farmers were made aware about biological security. Poultry entrepreneurs had incurred a heavy loss due to bird flu four years ago in the district.

A version of this article appears in print on March 26, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.



 Area Poultry Farmers Watching Out for Chinese Bird Flu Strain [KIOW, 26 Mar 2017]

There have been -no- cases reported in Iowa, but a strain of bird flu that’s deadly to humans has already killed 140 people in China. The USDA’s head veterinarian, Dr. Jack Shere says the agency is preparing to fight the strain should it be found here. Shere says it’s possible migrating wild birds could bring the killer strain over from China which is why vigilance is so important.

An outbreak of a different strain of bird flu in 2015 resulted in the destruction of more than 31 million chickens and turkeys in Iowa and an economic loss to the state of $1.2 billion. The disease was confirmed at 77 Iowa poultry operations in 18 counties including one of the largest in Wright County. Shere says producers need to button up their flocks.

There were bird flu outbreaks this year in Tennessee and Wisconsin, but federal health officials say the risk to people from those strains is low.



 Taiwan reports new outbreak of bird flu [Shanghai Daily (subscription), 26 Mar 2017]

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TAIWAN has confirmed a new outbreak of bird flu at two poultry farms and culled more than 14,000 birds to prevent further infection, according to the local animal inspection authority.

Ducks at a farm in Pingdong county were confirmed with the H5N2 virus and more than 6,000 were culled.

A chicken farm in Tainan city also reported outbreak of an H5-type virus on Saturday, and more than 8,000 chicken were slaughtered.

Taiwan is a common destination for migrating birds. Its farms have reported more than 15 avian flu cases this year, including cases related to the highly pathogenic H5N6 virus.

The general bird flu situation is "under steady control" despite sporadic infections, the animal inspection authority said.

It warned farms to strengthen quarantine and sanitation work and report any unusual death of poultry. Those who report infections will get compensation for culled poultry, while cover-ups will lead to hefty fines.



 Avian flu affects Georgia chicken shows, sales [Forsyth County News Online, 25 Mar 2017]

By Isabel Hughes

Poultry shows, exhibitions and flea market and auction sales have been suspended in Georgia after cases of Avian Influenza were confirmed in Tennessee.

On Thursday, March 16, Georgia’s state veterinarian, Robert Cobb Jr., released a memo outlining the suspension, though he stressed the bird flu has not been found in Georgia poultry.

“Implement strict biosecurity on all poultry premises; all outdoor poultry should be moved into bio-secure housing and any contact with wild birds of any kind, especially waterfowl, their habitat, or their droppings should be avoided; if you use rendering for dead poultry disposal, please verify that the trucks are disinfected at each pick up and that the freezer area is kept clean and clutter free; take the necessary precautions around any congregation points for growers or backyard owners; monitor all flocks for increased mortality or clinical signs consistent with HPAI and enroll in the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP),” the memo said.

According to the memo, in early March, confirmed cases of HPAI were found on a commercial poultry farm in Lincoln, Tennessee.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture, with assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, euthanized the animals to prevent further spread, but on March 16, a second commercial poultry farm less than two miles from the original farm also confirmed cases of HPAI.

Cases of LPAI were also confirmed in Giles County, Tennessee and investigations are ongoing in Alabama at one commercial and two backyard poultry farms.

The Alabama investigation reportedly began after routine surveillance at a flea market.

Though Forsyth County is home to two major poultry producers, American Proteins and Tyson Foods, a spokesman for Tyson said the suspension will not affect the local industry, nor is it a food safety concern.

In a news release updated March 16, Tyson said the company will monitor its poultry at all locations.

“All of our U.S. poultry operations continue to operate under heightened biosecurity as a result of outbreaks that affected the poultry industry in the U.S. in 2015, and we continue to communicate best practices to all farmers who contract with us,” the release said. “This is a bird health issue and not a food safety or human health concern.”

For more information regarding the Avian flu or Georgia Department of Agriculture guidelines, visit: agr.georgia.gov/avian-influenza.aspx.



 Officials urge residents against buying chicks during spring season due to health risks [Fox News, 25 Mar 2017]

by Rhea Titus

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Officials urge Marylanders against buying chicks during spring season due to health risks (MGN)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WBFF) -- With the the start of spring and Easter just around the corner, the Maryland Department of Agriculture is warning residents to not buy chicks to avoid serious illness this spring.

During spring season, chicks are hatched in large quantities and shipped around the U.S. This shipping process makes chicks more prone to getting diseases.
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Officials say people that incorrectly handle live poultry, including chicks and ducklings can be at risk of illnesses that include Salmonella and High Avian Influenza.

Having contact with live poultry can be a source of human Salmonella infections can lead to diarrheal illness in that can be mild to life threatening.

"We ask people to think twice before bringing baby chicks and other live poultry into their homes. The risk of illness from improper handling is much higher this time of year, especially among people not used to handling live birds," said Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder.

"Anyone with poultry should practice heightened biosecurity to prevent diseases like bird flu from entering their flock."

For those buying chicks for children this spring, the Department of Agriculture provides safety tips:

1. Purchase chickens only from hatcheries that are certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) and have a permit from MDA. The NPIP hatcheries follow strict biosecurity practices, maintain detailed records of where their chicks come from, and have had their sites and chickens tested for particularly debilitating diseases.

2. Be aware that chicks and other live poultry can appear healthy and clean while carrying Salmonella germs.

3. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after touching live poultry or anything in the area where poultry live and roam. Adults should supervise hand washing for young children.

4. Do not allow children younger than age 5, elderly persons, or people with weak immune systems handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry.

5. Clean any equipment or materials associated with raising or caring for live poultry outside the house, such as cages or feed or water containers.

6. Don't let live poultry inside the house, in bathrooms, or especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchens, or outdoor patios.

7. Don't snuggle or kiss the birds, touch your mouth, or eat or drink around live poultry.

The department also says it is important to note that owners with five or more birds must register their location with the department so they can be contacted immediately when a suspected disease is identified.

There also steps you can take to protect flocks from "Bird Flu":

1. Clean rigorously. Wear clean clothes, scrub your shoes with disinfectant, and wash your hands thoroughly before entering your bird area. Clean cages daily. Change food and water daily. Clean and disinfect equipment that comes in contact with your birds or their droppings, including cages and tools. Remove manure before disinfecting. If you have been near other birds or bird owners, such as at a feed store, clean and disinfect your car and truck tires, poultry cages, and equipment before going home

2. Buy new birds from reputable hatcheries. Keep them separate from your flock for at least 21 days. Start with healthy birds and keep them healthy!

3. Restrict access to your property and your birds.

4. If you show birds at exhibitions, be sure to have them tested first, and keep these birds separate from your flock for at least three full weeks after.

5. Register your flock with MDA. If there is a bird flu outbreak in your area, we will let you know and tell you how you can protect your birds. To register, visit www.mda.maryland.gov or call 410-841-5810.

6. Report sick birds to MDA at 410-841-5810.

Zoonotic Bird Flu News - from 23 till 24 Mar 2017



 High-path H7N9 expands to poultry in China's Hunan province [CIDRAP, 24 Mar 2017]

by Lisa Schnirring

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China today reported a highly pathogenic H7N9 outbreak at a poultry farm in Hunan province, the first detection of the newly identified more lethal form in poultry outside of Guangdong province, while Japan reported two new H5N6 outbreaks at poultry farms in different prefectures.

In Europe, there are some indications that the brisk pace of avian flu outbreaks may be slowing, but countries continue to report fresh outbreaks in poultry and backyard birds.

H7N9 affects 190,000 birds in China

In a report today to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), China's agriculture ministry said the outbreak at a layer farm near the city of Yongzhou in Hunan province began on Mar 19 and was detected though active surveillance. Samples tested positive for highly pathogenic H7N9 today in tests at the Harbin National Reference Lab for Avian Influenza.

Of 189,676 susceptible birds, the virus killed 18,497, and the remaining birds were destroyed to curb the spread of the disease.

The outbreak involving the highly pathogenic form of H7N9 is the first to be confirmed on a poultry farm. In late February, China reported that several samples from birds at live-poultry markets in neighboring Guangdong province were positive for the virus.

Until this year, only the low-pathogenic form the virus had been found in Chinese poultry, which, because it can circulate silently without symptoms, has made it difficult to identify and control in flocks and markets.

A few human illnesses involving the highly pathogenic strain have been identified in Guangdong province and Taiwan, but so far it doesn't appear to pose a greater threat to humans than its low-pathogenic relative.

Health officials have said though the highly pathogenic strain might be easier to track in poultry, it poses a threat to poultry supplies and raises questions about whether a highly pathogenic strain might be more easily spread by migratory birds.

Japan reports H5N6 in 2 large flocks

Elsewhere, Japan today reported two more highly pathogenic H5N6 outbreaks at commercial layer farms, one in Miyagi prefecture in east central Japan and the other about 230 miles to the south in Chiba prefecture, according to a report from the OIE.

An increase in birth deaths was noted at both locations on Mar 23, prompting further testing.

Taken together, the virus killed 71 of 288,000 susceptible birds, and culling is under way at the facilities.

Japan and a handful of other Asian countries have battled several H5N6 outbreaks over the winter season.

Possible slowdown in Europe

Amid unprecedented spread in European poultry and wild birds of avian influenza, mainly highly pathogenic H5N8, Germany is relaxing some of its restrictions in certain areas, Reuters reported today. The northern state is Schleswig-Holstein starting tomorrow will allow poultry into open fields again, following about 5 weeks without further outbreaks.

Earlier this week, French agriculture ministry officials said outbreaks that hit hard the foie gras production area in the southwestern part of the country over the past few months have slowed in the past 2 weeks, Reuters said in a separate report. For the second year in a row, the farming area battled a handful of different strains, mostly H5N8.

Meanwhile, countries continue to report new detections in poultry and wild birds, according to the latest OIE reports:

• Belgium reported a new H5N8 outbreak, involving a mallard and a black swan found dead on Mar 17 in Limburg province in the country's northeast.

• Czech Republic officials reported one more H5N8 outbreak in poultry, which began Mar 21 at a backyard holding in Karlovy Vary region in the east, killing 6 of 34 hens and ducks.



 Threat Re-Emerges as New Avian Flu Cases Reported [Lancaster Farming, 24 Mar 2017]

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Poultry and animal disease experts in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences are urging commercial poultry producers and small-flock owners in Pennsylvania to ramp up their vigilance and biosecurity in the wake of recent outbreaks of avian influenza in several states.

In early March, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced that a commercial flock of breeder chickens in Tennessee tested positive for highly pathogenic avian flu.

Since then, APHIS has revealed another case of H7N9 virus at a second Tennessee farm, and Alabama agriculture officials announced an outbreak of suspected low-pathogenic avian flu affecting three premises in that state.

In addition, low-pathogenic avian flu was reported in a Wisconsin turkey flock and in a Kentucky broiler breeder flock, and routine surveillance has found the presence of low-pathogenic avian flu in wild waterfowl in various states.

The pathogenicity of a virus refers to its ability to produce disease. Some H5 or H7 viruses have the capacity to mutate into “high-path” strains under certain conditions, according to Eva Wallner-Pendleton, senior research associate and avian pathologist in Penn State’s Animal Diagnostic Laboratory.

“Low-path AI viruses can go undiagnosed because they often produce very little illness or death,” she said. “The time needed to mutate into high-path viruses varies considerably from weeks to months, or it can occur rapidly.”

The strains involved in these recent outbreaks have not been shown to infect people and do not raise food-safety issues, she said.

Proper processing, handling and cooking of poultry and eggs will provide protection from viruses and bacteria, including avian influenza.

Infection with North American strains of low-pathogenic avian flu is a common natural occurrence in wild birds, such as ducks and geese, which usually show few or no symptoms, Wallner-Pendleton explained.

“But if these strains get into a poultry flock, they can mutate and become highly pathogenic, causing significant mortality,” she said.

Wallner-Pendleton noted that poultry flocks infected with low-pathogenic H5 or H7 avian flu subtypes often will be culled to stop the spread of the virus and to keep it from becoming more virulent.

The recent Tennessee outbreak occurred within the Mississippi flyway, which is one of four paths taken by wild birds when migrating in the spring and fall in North America.

During the 2014-15 outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N2 avian flu that led to the loss of about 50 million turkeys and laying hens in the Midwest, the Atlantic flyway — which includes Pennsylvania and connects with the Mississippi flyway — was the only migratory flyway not affected.

However, with birds co-mingling in warmer climates during the winter and the spring northward migration underway, the poultry industries in Pennsylvania and neighboring states are at heightened risk.

Poultry production in the Keystone State has a farm-gate value of $1.4 billion, and the state ranks fourth nationally in egg production and 10th in turkey production.

Lancaster County has more laying hens that any other single county in the United States.

“In Tennessee, one of the affected poultry houses was near a pond, which may have attracted wild waterfowl,” Wallner-Pendleton said.

“In cool, wet weather, bird droppings can contain viable virus for a long time, and the pathogen can be spread to poultry flocks on people’s shoes or on vehicle tires and so forth,” she said. “So a key biosecurity recommendation is to prevent any contact between waterfowl and domestic poultry, and to take steps to ensure that the virus is not introduced into a poultry house on clothing or equipment.”

Gregory Martin, Penn State Extension poultry science educator based in Lancaster County, pointed out that the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture recommends that any poultry flocks kept outdoors be brought under cover during waterfowl migration periods.

“State and federal agriculture officials also strongly urge producers to develop an HPAI flock plan and augment it with a comprehensive biosecurity plan,” Martin said. “These plans may be required for producers to receive indemnification for any losses resulting from an avian flu outbreak.”

To assist producers in developing a biosecurity plan, Martin said, Penn State poultry scientists and veterinarians have developed a plan template that can be customized for various types of flocks.

In addition, a video on how to create an HPAI farm plan can be found at http://bit.ly/1IX1yxo.

Since the 2014-15 Midwest avian flu outbreak, Penn State also has played a key role on a state task force that has developed plans for how to prevent, respond to and recover from any potential outbreak in Pennsylvania.

The task force has addressed topics such as biosecurity, emergency management, depopulation and disposal of infected flocks, issues relevant to small or backyard flocks, and education for youth poultry exhibitors at county fairs and other shows.

Specific recommendations on biosecurity, information on how to recognize the symptoms of avian flu, and guidance on how to report suspected cases can be found at http://bit.ly/1LY0vU8.



 Continuance of Poultry Assembry suspension in Georgia [Valdosta Today, 24 Mar 2017]

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ATLANTA — In an effort to minimize the risk of Avian Influenza entering our Georgia poultry flocks, the state veterinarian for Georgia has suspended all poultry exhibitions, swaps and meets, shows or sales at festivals, flea markets or auctions in the State of Georgia until further notice.

This temporary suspension is in response to the recent confirmations of Avian Influenza in Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky and prohibits the concentration, collection, or assembly of poultry and poultry products of all types from one or more premises for purposes of sale, exhibition, show, swap or meet.

“It is crucial that we all take extra precautions during this high alert situation to protect the State of Georgia from this devastating virus,” State Veterinarian Dr. Robert Cobb said. “The best way to do that is to stay vigilant maintaining our biosecurity measures and to avoid the unnecessary transport and comingling of birds.”

The suspension does not restrict importation of poultry or poultry products provided all Georgia import requirements are met prior to importation. The suspension does not restrict out–of–state export of poultry and poultry products. All exports must meet the requirements of the state or country of destination. The suspension does not affect private sales of poultry and poultry products. Shipments of eggs or baby chicks from National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) Avian Influenza (AI) Clean facilities directly to approved Georgia facilities for sale to the public are not affected by this suspension. Eggs and baby chicks offered for sale that do not come from NPIP AI Clean facilities to the point of sale and/or eggs and baby chicks that move from an NPIP AI Clean facility directly to an unapproved facility and then are offered for resale are suspended temporarily.

Poultry contributes $25.9 billion to Georgia’s economy and accounts for 104 thousand jobs in the state.

“Agriculture is big business in our state and poultry is our number one industry,” Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black said. “It is imperative that we take every precaution necessary to prevent this economically devastating virus from entering our borders.”

The Georgia Department of Agriculture has been working diligently with industry partners and is focused on animal health and disease prevention. Neither LPAI nor HPAI pose a risk to the food supply. Furthermore, the Georgia Department of Health confirms that the risk of a human becoming ill with avian influenza during poultry illness incidents is very low. For more updates and information regarding biosecurity tips visit www.ga-ai.org or www.allinallgone.com.



 Poultry bans influence meat supply, prices [Missouri Farmer Today, 24 Mar 2017]

MANHATTAN, Kan. — Bans imposed by some countries on poultry products bear watching by all U.S. livestock producers, according to Kansas State University agricultural economist Glynn Tonsor.

In response to news of the presence of highly pathogenic H7 avian influenza (HPAI) on a Tennessee commercial poultry farm, South Korea on March 6 banned imports of all uncooked U.S. poultry and egg products.

Taiwan imposed a ban on imports of poultry-related products from Tennessee and also imposed a ban on poultry meat from Wisconsin on news that a flock there was confirmed with low pathogenic H5 avian flu.

Japan and Hong Kong have also imposed restrictions, according to a Kansas Extension news release.

The Tennessee state veterinarian’s office confirmed March 9 that a separate flock of chickens at a commercial poultry operation tested positive for low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI).

The U.S. exports about 18 percent of its annual poultry production, according to the USDA
Economic Research Service. Mexico, Canada, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan were the top five importers of U.S. poultry and eggs in 2016.

Neither the low pathogenic nor high pathogenic forms of the disease poses a risk to the food supply, according to the Tennessee statement.

Depending on how long or widespread such bans on U.S. or specific states’ poultry imports last, however, poultry supplies could back up and potentially weigh on prices for chicken, as well as pork and beef, Tonsor said.

“When one industry loses access to a foreign market, a portion of that volume may be redirected to other foreign customers, yet usually results in larger domestic consumption,” he said.

The net effect can lead to a chain reaction: Without the ability to export chicken meat to international markets, U.S. suppliers may be forced to lower prices to move product off of grocery store shelves.

And when chicken is cheap, many shoppers will opt to save money instead of buying pork or beef which, in turn, affects the price of livestock in those markets.

Tonsor noted it is helpful when some international buyers of U.S. meat products — in this case poultry — adopt regional restrictions rather than nationwide restrictions.

“When an importing country elects to restrict products from a region rather than the U.S. entirely, the corresponding trade disruptions and hence, market-price effects are diluted as the national industry retains some of their originally expected trade access,” he said.

Tonsor added that this regionalization aspect is particularly important in the case of the poultry industry, as production in some bird flyways may be affected while operations in other flyways may experience no animal-health events.



 Bird flu cases confirmed in Miyagi and Chiba [The Japan News, 24 Mar 2017]

Jiji Press

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The Yomiuri Shimbun
Chickens are culled at a farm in Kurihara, Miyagi Prefecture on Friday.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Miyagi and Chiba prefectures said Friday they have confirmed that chickens at local farms were infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza.

One of the two farms is in the city of Kurihara in Miyagi Prefecture where some 220,000 birds are raised. The other one is in the city of Asahi in Chiba Prefecture where around 68,000 birds are raised.

The two prefectural governments requested the dispatch of Self-Defense Forces troops for help to cull all of the chickens at the farms in order to contain the bird flu. Culling has already started.

They are the 11th and 12th bird flu cases that have been confirmed at domestic poultry farms this winter.

The two farms hit by bird flu this time raise egg-laying hens.

Their operators reported to local authorities that chickens had died at the same locations.

Six out of the seven dead chickens in Kurihara and all 10 dead chickens in Asahi tested positive for avian influenza through simple examinations.

Similar results were obtained through genetic tests.

The prefectural governments have banned transfers of chickens and eggs within 3 kilometers of the two farms and prohibited farms in areas 3-10 kilometers from the two facilities from transporting their birds and eggs outside the areas.



 220,000 more Poultry culled in Japan due to an outbreak of bird flu that has reappeared since the end of 2016 [News Gram, 24 Mar 2017]

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Regional authorities on Friday began slaughtering all the birds on the farm with help from the Japan Self-Defence Forces, a process that will continue until Sunday.

Tokyo, March 24, 2017: Japanese authorities announced on Friday that some 220,000 more poultry were culled due to an outbreak of bird flu that has reappeared since the end of 2016.

The latest outbreak was detected on a farm in Miyagi prefecture after hundreds of dead chickens were analysed throughout the week and were subsequently found that they were infected with the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5, Efe news reported.

Regional authorities on Friday began slaughtering all the birds on the farm with help from the Japan Self-Defence Forces, a process that will continue until Sunday.

In addition, the transport of birds and eggs within a radius of 10 km around the three affected farms has been prohibited.

According to state broadcaster NHK, Miyagi Governor Yoshihiro Murai said at a press conference that this is the first outbreak of bird flu detected on a farm in this prefecture.

The number of poultry slaughtered in Japan has reached around 1.39 million so far since the bird flu was again detected in the country in November 2016 after the 2014 outbreak, prompting the Environment Ministry to raise the alert to the highest level. (IANS)



 Culling of 300,000 chickens begins in Japan after bird flu detected [The Mainichi, 24 Mar 2017]

SENDAI (Kyodo) -- Local authorities in the eastern Japan prefectures of Miyagi and Chiba began culling nearly 300,000 chickens Friday after the highly pathogenic H5 strain of bird flu was detected in some chickens that had died in local poultry farms.

The Miyagi prefectural government is planning to cull 220,000 chickens and bury them underground by early Monday, while the Chiba authority is culling 68,000 chickens, in the latest in a series of bird flu outbreaks in the country.

Japan has been experiencing a series of bird flu outbreaks, including recent ones in the southwestern prefectures of Miyazaki and Saga.

The Miyagi and Chiba prefectural governments have restricted any movement of poultry and eggs within a radius of 3 kilometers from the farms where the virus has been detected. They have also banned poultry and eggs from being taken outside a 10-km radius.

The Miyagi government has set up a response unit at its headquarters and requested the deployment of Self-Defense Forces personnel to engage in the culling operation.

"The initial response is the most important thing. We are making all-out efforts in the culling operation," Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yuji Yamamoto said, adding the central government will closely collaborate with the Miyagi and Chiba governments.

According to the Miyagi prefectural government, a total of 96 chickens were found dead over three days through Thursday at a poultry farm in the city of Kurihara. Six of them tested positive in a preliminary screening on Thursday.

In Chiba, a total of 118 chickens were found dead in the same three-day period at a farm in Asahi and 10 tested positive in a preliminary test.
Subsequent generic exams detected highly virulent avian influenza.

At the poultry farm in Kurihara, prefectural government officials clad in white protective gear conducted operations inside the poultry house, while work to dig holes to bury the chickens using heavy machinery was also in progress.

Farmers hope the culling operations can be completed as soon as possible so as not to cause any reputational damage to their products.

Fujiko Hatayama, 70, who runs a poultry farm more than 20 km from the outbreak site in Kurihara, said, "I hope everything will be fine. There are only a few things we can do." Early in the morning, she spread lime powder on the ground to help prevent infections.

Since late Thursday night, Miyagi prefectural government employees have gathered to conduct culling operations.

"It was the first time in Miyagi Prefecture that bird flu has been detected in livestock but we experienced no problems as we had conducted drills last year," said Koji Abe, a 52-year-old prefectural government employee.



 Japanese authorities begin to cull 288,000 chickens [Pulse Nigeria, 24 Mar 2017]

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Bird Flu quarantine (AFP)

The local government confirmed an H5 type of virus in some of the dead birds in genetic testing.

Japanese authorities on Friday started to slaughter about 288,000 chickens at poultry farms in two prefectures after bird flu was confirmed early

The local government confirmed an H5 type of virus in some of the dead birds in genetic testing.

In the north-eastern of Miyagi, about 200 local officials and 180 troops culled about 220,000 chickens at a poultry farm in the city of Kurihara after an H5 type of virus was detected in dead birds.

A total of 96 chickens were found dead at the farm between Tuesday and Thursday.

In the city of Asahi in Chiba prefecture, east of Tokyo, about 600 officials started to slaughter about 68,000 chickens at a poultry farm.

At the farm, 118 of them were found dead in the past three days.

The outbreaks prompted the two prefectural governments to restrict the movements of poultry and eggs in areas near the farms.

Since November, cases of the highly pathogenic H5 virus have been found at poultry farms in wide areas of Japan, including the southern island of Kyushu and the northernmost island of Hokkaido.



 300,000 chickens doomed as bird flu spreads to Miyagi, Chiba [The Japan Times, 24 Mar 2017]

SENDAI – Authorities in Miyagi and Chiba prefectures began culling nearly 300,000 chickens Friday after the highly pathogenic H5 strain of bird flu was detected in dead chickens at local poultry farms.

In Japan’s latest bird flu outbreak, the Miyagi Prefectural Government plans to cull 220,000 chickens and bury them by early Monday, while the Chiba authority is in the midst of culling 68,000 chickens.

The latest outbreaks follow infections in Miyazaki and Saga in Kyushu.

The Miyagi and Chiba prefectural governments have restricted the movement of poultry and eggs within 3 km of the affected farms. They also banned poultry and eggs from being taken outside a 10-km radius.

In Miyagi, a response unit has been set up and the Self-Defense Forces have been asked to help cull the infected birds.

“The initial response is the most important thing. We are making all-out efforts in the culling operation,” Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yuji Yamamoto said, adding the central government will closely collaborate with the two prefectural governments.

According to the Miyagi Prefectural Government, 96 chickens died over three days through Thursday at a poultry farm in Kurihara. Six tested positive in a preliminary screening on Thursday.

In Chiba, 118 chickens were found dead in the same three-day period at a farm in Asahi and 10 tested positive in a preliminary test.

Subsequent generic exams detected the highly virulent avian influenza.

At the poultry farm in Kurihara, prefectural officials in white protective gear conducted operations in the poultry house, while work to dig holes to bury the carcasses using heavy machinery was also in progress.

Farmers hope the culling can be completed as soon as possible to avoid damaging the reputation of the farms’ products.

“I hope everything will be fine,” said 70-year-old Fujiko Hatayama, who runs a poultry farm more than 20 km from the site of the outbreak in Kurihara. “There are only a few things we can do.”

Early in the morning, she spread lime powder on the ground to help prevent the infection from being spread further.

Miyagi prefectural employees began gathering for the culling late Thursday night.

“It was the first time in Miyagi Prefecture that bird flu has been detected in livestock, but we didn’t experience any problems because we conducted drills last year,” said Koji Abe, a 52-year-old employee of the Miyagi Prefectural Government.



 China: 18 additional H7N9 avian influenza cases reported in past week [Outbreak News Today, 24 Mar 2017]

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The China National Health and Family Planning Commission that 18 additional human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9), including two deaths, were recorded from March 17 to 23.

The 11 male and seven female patients, aged from 37 to 86, had their onset from March 9 to 15. The cases were five cases from Guangxi, four cases in Hunan, two cases each from Hubei and Zhejiang and one case each from Anhui, Fujian, Guizhou, Henan and Jiangxi. Among them, 16 were known to have exposure to poultry or poultry markets.

According to the Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection (CHP) s of Mar. 18, 1329 human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9) have been reported since 2013.

Avian influenza is caused by those influenza viruses that mainly affect birds and poultry, such as chickens or ducks, according to the CHP.

Clinical presentation of avian influenza in humans includes eye infection (conjunctivitis), flu-like symptoms (e.g. fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches) or severe respiratory illness (e.g. chest infection). The incubation period ranges from 7 to 10 days. The more virulent forms can result in respiratory failure, multi-organ failure and even death.

People mainly become infected with avian influenza through close contact with infected birds and poultry (live or dead) or their droppings. Human-to-human transmission is inefficient.

People in close contact with poultry are more susceptible to contracting avian flu. The elderly, children and people with chronic illness have a higher risk of developing complications such as bronchitis and chest infection.



 Georgia takes steps to protect poultry from bird flu [Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog, 24 Mar 2017]

by Ligaya Figueras

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The Georgia Department of Agriculture has taken steps to protect poultry flocks in the state from bird flu. BRANT SANDERLIN /

In an effort to minimize the risk of Avian Influenza entering Georgia poultry flocks, the state has temporarily suspended all poultry exhibitions, swaps and meets, shows or sales at festivals, flea markets or auctions in Georgia.

The suspension is in response to the recent confirmations of Avian Influenza, informally known as avian flu or bird flu, in Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky. The suspension prohibits the “concentration, collection, or assembly of poultry and poultry products of all types from one or more premises for purposes of sale, exhibition, show, swap or meet,” according to a statement issued by the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

“What we are trying to eliminate is the fairs, flea markets, shows – (where there would be) any co-mingling of birds,” said GDA spokesperson Julie McPeake.

The suspension does not restrict importation of poultry or poultry products, provided they meet Georgia import requirements. Nor does the suspension restrict out–of–state export of Georgia poultry and poultry products. The suspension also does not affect private sales of poultry and poultry products.

Poultry contributes $25.9 billion to Georgia’s economy and accounts for more than 100,000 jobs in the state.

“Agriculture is big business in our state and poultry is our number one industry,” Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black said in a prepared statement. “It is imperative that we take every precaution necessary to prevent this economically devastating virus from entering our borders.”

The risk of a human becoming ill with avian influenza during poultry illness incidents is very low, according to the Georgia Department of Health.



 Stronger Precautions Urged for Bird Flu [ThePoultrySite.com, 24 Mar 2017]

CHINA - Two international organizations have stressed the high possibility of human-to-human transmission of the H7N9 virus, which saw the biggest outbreak in China over the past winter since first being reported in China in 2013.

The organizations urged the Chinese government to take more precautionary measures to prevent a possible bird flu epidemic.

"Experts agree that it is not a question of if, but when the virus will adapt in ways that facilitate efficient, sustained human-to-human transmission," according to a joint statement on Thursday from the World Health Organization and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.



 South China Region Records 20 Cases of Bird Flu in 2017 [Sputnik International, 24 Mar 2017]

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Six cases of H7N9 avian influenza virus infection in China's southern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, including three lethal ones, were recorded between March 17 and 23, according to local media.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Twenty cases of the H7N9 bird flu virus have been registered in China's southern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region since the beginning of 2017, including seven with lethal outcomes, local media reported Friday, citing health authorities.

According to the National Health and Family Planning Commission's data, six cases of H7N9 avian influenza virus infection, including three lethal ones, were recorded between March 17 and 23, Xinhua news agency reported.

The first case of a human contracting avian influenza virus of the H7N9 strain was registered in China in March 2013. China has imposed bans on poultry imports from affected countries.

Curbs are already in place against some 60 nations, including Japan and South Korea.

In late February, the Chinese authorities reported the first genetic mutation of the H7N9 bird flu virus, which made it deadlier to poultry, and added that it posed no new threat to humans.

Between March 3 and 9, a total of 26 cases of the virus were registered nationwide, including three fatalities, with numbers continuing to rise.



 China confirms outbreak of H7N9 bird flu on Hunan egg farms [Reuters, 24 Mar 2017]

China confirms outbreak of H7N9 bird flu on Hunan egg farms.jpg
Chickens are seen in a livestock market before the market asked to stop trading on March 1 in prevention of bird flu transmission, in Kunming, Yunnan province, China, February 22, 2017. Picture taken February 22, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

China confirmed an outbreak of H7N9 bird flu at a poultry farm in Hunan province in the southern part of the country, according to a Ministry of Agriculture statement on Friday.

The outbreak in Yongzhou, a city of more than 5 million people, was detected among farmers raising so-called layers, chickens that are bred for egg production, with about 29,760 birds infected, and around 18,500 dying of the disease.

Laboratory tests confirmed the birds had the H7N9 virus, leading to the culling of 171,179 chickens, said the statement on the ministry's website.

The outbreak is now under control, the ministry said.

The case comes after a surge in the rate of human infections with H7N9, leading to 161 deaths in China since October.

Live poultry markets have been shut down in many provinces following the human infections, but until recently the virus had been difficult to detect in poultry.

The strain has however evolved into a highly pathogenic strain in some parts of the country, leading to more obvious symptoms in birds.

(Reporting by Dominique Patton; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)




 Bird flu outbreak called America’s worst since 2015 [The Japan Times, 23 Mar 2017]

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA – A bird flu outbreak that has resulted in the euthanasia of more than 200,000 animals in three Southern U.S. states already is America’s worst since 2015 and new cases are still popping up, an expert said Wednesday.

Agriculture officials are trying to limit the damage from the disease, but it’s unclear whether quarantines, transportation bans and mass killings will stop the spread, said Joseph Hess, a poultry science professor at Auburn University.

The disease was first confirmed in southern Tennessee earlier this month and has since been detected in northern Alabama and western Kentucky.

“We’re at the point where it’s a little here and a little there. It could fade away, but it could blow up into something bigger,” said Hess, who also works with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

State officials say no infected birds have entered the nation’s poultry supply, and the U.S. food chain isn’t at risk.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture said Tuesday that it was temporarily banning the transportation of poultry after a low-pathogenic form of the disease was found in a commercial flock of 22,000 hens in western Kentucky. The farm was placed under quarantine and the birds were killed.

The announcement came as the state of Alabama confirmed the presence of low-pathogenic bird flu in two flocks there, where more than 42,000 animals have been euthanized. High-pathogenic bird flu, a deadlier form of the illness, was previously detected in Tennessee, where 145,000 birds were put to death.

Hess said the illness is carried by waterfowl, which don’t get ill but can pass along the disease to poultry.

The current outbreak has affected large commercial poultry houses, where at-risk birds typically are put to death by the thousands with foam that smothers them, and smaller, backyard operations.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said a flock of 84,000 turkeys had been confirmed with a low-pathogenic bird flu virus in Wisconsin.

None of the current outbreaks have been linked to the same high-pathogenic virus that resulted in the loss of millions of birds in the Midwest chicken egg and turkey industry in 2015.



 Avian flu tests continue; strain confirmed in Giles [Winchester Herald Chronicle, 23 Mar 2017]

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As state officials have confirmed that a flock of chickens at a commercial poultry breeding operation in Giles County has tested positive for low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI), they do not believe it is connected with the recent detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Lincoln County.

The company operating it is a different company from the one associated with the operation in Lincoln County, officials said, adding that while they do not believe one of the premises sickened the other, the incidents are similar in that both the low pathogenic and highly pathogenic viruses are an H7N9 strain of avian influenza.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed that the H7N9 virus that affected the Lincoln County operation is of North American wild bird lineage. It is not the same as the China H7N9 virus affecting Asia and is genetically distinct.

The primary difference between LPAI and HPAI is mortality rate in domesticated poultry, said officials with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. A slight change to the viral structure can make a virus deadly for birds. Avian influenza virus strains often occur naturally in wild migratory birds without causing illness in those birds. With LPAI, domesticated chickens and turkeys may show little or no signs of illness. However, HPAI is often fatal for domesticated poultry.

As a precaution, the affected Giles County flock was depopulated and has been buried, just like the flock here. Domesticated poultry within a 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) radius of the site are also under quarantine and are being tested and monitored for illness.

In Lincoln County, federal and state partners continue to monitor the situation and test poultry – here, the quarantine area has been expanded to a 10-mile radius of the affected Elora operation to ensure that all commercial operations in the area are disease-free. To date, all additional samples have tested negative for avian influenza and no other flocks within the area have shown signs of illness.

Neither LPAI nor HPAI pose a risk to the food supply. No affected animals entered the food chain. The risk of a human becoming ill with avian influenza during poultry outbreaks is very low.

However, out of an abundance of caution, officials with the Tennessee Department of Health and Tennessee Department of Agriculture are working together to monitor the health of individuals who are working on either premises or had contact with affected birds.

The plan for the control of avian influenza includes coordination of local, county, state and federal resources and response, and protocols for quarantine, testing, disposal, cleaning, disinfection and monitoring.

Owners of commercial and backyard poultry flocks are encouraged to closely observe their birds.

•Report a sudd en increase in the number of sick birds or bird deaths to the state veterinarian’s office at 615- 837-5120 and/or USDA at 1-866-536-7593
• Prevent contact with wild birds.
• Practice good biosecurity with your poultry http://healthybirds.aphis.usda.gov/ .
• Enroll in the National Poultry Improvement Plan www.poultryimprovement.org.



 Single nucleotide change responsible for allowing H7N9 flu to jump from birds to humans found [Phys.Org, 23 Mar 2017]

h7n9 Single nucleotide change .png
Influenza A (H7N9) as viewed through an electron microscope. Both filaments and spheres are observed in this photo. Credit: CDC

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in Hong Kong and mainland China has isolated a change in a single nucleotide that is responsible for allowing the H7N9 flu virus to replicate in both birds and humans. In their paper published in the journal Nature Communications, the team describes their efforts in searching for the factors involved when avian flu jumps to humans and what their findings could mean for reducing the spread of future flu epidemics.

Scientists around the world are very concerned about how viruses spread from animals to humans—the fear is that one day, a super-virus may emerge, one that is both easily transmissible and deadly, potentially killing millions of people around the globe. In this new effort, the researchers focused on H7N9, a flu virus that was first found to jump from birds (mainly chickens) to humans as recently as 2000. It has infected people mostly in China, but its recent history offered an opportunity to learn more about how a virus jumps to humans.

To learn more about the virus, the researchers obtained samples and subjected them to genetic analysis looking for any differences between them and other avian flu viruses that do not spread to humans. They found a unique nucleotide (an RNA building block) substitution called NS-G540A in the NS segment—a mutation that allowed the virus to replicate in both avian and human (and other mammalian) hosts. They report that they found the mutation on some other flu variants as well, such as H9N2.

The researchers note that in addition to learning more about how a virus can make the leap between species, the identification of the nucleotide also offers the medical community a biomarker—testing chickens and other fowl infected with a flu variant for the marker would allow for identifying birds carrying a flu variant that can cause infections in the people that handle them. They note also that they found no evidence that the mutation played a role in allowing the virus to spread between humans once it made the leap from an avian source.

Explore further: UN sees bird flu changes but calls risk of people spread low☞ bird flu changes 

More information: Xiaofeng Huang et al. An NS-segment exonic splicing enhancer regulates influenza A virus replication in mammalian cells, Nature Communications (2017). ☞ NS-segment exonic splicing enhancer 

Abstract

Influenza virus utilizes host splicing machinery to process viral mRNAs expressed from both M and NS segments. Through genetic analysis and functional characterization, we here show that the NS segment of H7N9 virus contains a unique G540A substitution, located within a previously undefined exonic splicing enhancer (ESE) motif present in the NEP mRNA of influenza A viruses. G540A supports virus replication in mammalian cells while retaining replication ability in avian cells. Host splicing regulator, SF2, interacts with this ESE to regulate splicing of NEP/NS1 mRNA and G540A substitution affects SF2–ESE interaction. The NS1 protein directly interacts with SF2 in the nucleus and modulates splicing of NS mRNAs during virus replication. We demonstrate that splicing of NEP/NS1 mRNA is regulated through a cis NEP-ESE motif and suggest a unique NEP-ESE may contribute to provide H7N9 virus with the ability to both circulate efficiently in avian hosts and replicate in mammalian cells.



 Dr Subra: No H5N1 human transmission cases [The Star Online, 23 Mar 2017]

BY MARTIN CARVALHOandAKIL YUNUS

KUALA LUMPUR: There has been no human transmission of the H5N1 avian influenza since it was detected in Kelantan earlier this month.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramanian said no cases of bird flu were found among those living in the areas where the H5N1 virus was detected in poultry since March 6.

"As of March 22, there are 28 locations in six districts in Kelantan where we are carrying out active human monitoring after H5N1 was detected among dead poultry.

"So far there has been no cases of H5N1 among humans," he said when answering a question by Datuk Seri Ikmal Hisham Abdul Aziz (BN-Tanah Merah) during Minister's Question Time in Parliament Thursday.

Dr Subramaniam said that monitoring for signs of avian flu was done within a 300m radius of where dead poultry is found.

He added that health officers would also monitor and engage with the local communities living within a 10km radius of the 28 areas where H5N1 was detected.

He said the H5N1 virus was found at 14 locations in Kota Baru, six in Pasir Puteh and Tumpat respectively and one each in Bachok and Pasir Mas.

Dr Subramaniam also dismissed talk that health personnel involved in the operations had caught the H5N1 flu.

"All personnel must wear masks, gloves and boots as a preventive measure and those who were down with flu-like illness did not have H5N1.

"If any of our personnel are ill, they will surely be given priority treatment," he added.

Ikmal Hisham had asked Dr Subramaniam if recent talk of health personnel contracting H5N1 were true.

Meanwhile, Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said that all poultry and chicken eggs within a 1km radius of the affected areas were destroyed.

"A total of 37,555 chickens and 15,348 eggs were destroyed by the Veterinary Department," he said.

He added that 3,457 samples were taken from poultry breeders for screening.



 Malaysian state declares H5N1 avian flu emergency [MENAFN.COM, 23 Mar 2017]

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(MENAFN - The Peninsula)

KUALA LUMPUR: A northeast Malaysian state has declared an emergency following an outbreak of H5N1, a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus.

The move by Kelantan state's government came after 28 locations in six districts tested positive for H5N1, commonly known as bird flu.

In a statement Monday, the government said a total of 33,153 poultry and 13,342 eggs have been disposed to date.

"Overall, until March 19, a total of 28 locations tested positive for H5N1 virus in six areas, which involves 43 premises," it stated.

Meanwhile, Kelantan's Veterinary Services Department said that China has imposed an immediate temporary restriction on imports of raw clean swiftlet edible bird's nest from Malaysia, due to the outbreak.

Although the chicken and duck population of Kelantan only accounts fo 0.5 of the total population in Malaysia, China is said to have banned the import due to health safety reasons.

The department has responded by letter to the Chinese authorities explaining the situation of the disease in the country, which includes details on the implementation of three zoning processes to curb its spread in Kelantan.

"We have explained that production of commercial eggs is fully run outside Kelantan and sources of raw clean edible bird's nest, which are meant for export, are also from outside Kelantan, it said.

"The supply sources can be traced through a system adopted by the department."
In 2016, Malaysia exported 20.15 metric tons (44,423 pounds) of bird's nest to China, worth 134.13 million Ringgit (30.3 million).



 Officials don't know how western Ky. chickens contracted avian flu [Kentucky Today, 23 Mar 2017]

By TOM LATEK

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Plans were in place to slaughter the huge flock of chickens that contracted avian flu in western Kentucky.

Poultry inspectors found the H7N9 low pathogenic avian influenza in a pre-slaughter inspection, leading to 22,000 hens being euthanized and buried instead of making their way to grocery shelves.

Kentucky State Veterinarian Robert C. Stout said the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, confirmed the presence of H7N9 low pathogenic avian influenza in samples taken from the Christian County site, after it was initially detected by the Murray State University Breathitt Veterinary Center in Hopkinsville, during a routine pre-slaughter test last week.

"It shows our system is working," said Tony Pescatore, professor and associate chair of the University of Kentucky’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences.

The type of avian influenza the chickens poses no health risks to humans. Though common in waterfowl, officials said it is unclear how the virus reached the chickens.

“It’s hard to say,” Pescatore said. “It can be spread many different ways.”

Possibilities include the virus coming in on a worker’s clothing or on equipment.

Stout said in a press release Monday that the operation was placed under quarantine, and the flock was “depopulated,” as a precautionary measure.

“Dr. Stout and his staff have extensive experience and expertise in animal disease control and eradication,” said Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles. “They are uniquely qualified to contain this outbreak, so our domestic customers and international trading partners can remain confident in Kentucky poultry.”

Low pathogenic avian influenza, such as that found in Christian County, may cause no symptoms, while highly pathogenic avian influenza can lead to severe symptoms with high mortality rates, according to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

Stout said officials are conducting tests on flocks within a six-mile radius of the affected farm, while the company operating the farm is also testing other commercial facilities it operates in that area.

The U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website says avian flu does not normally affect humans, but reminds people that proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 degrees kills bacteria and viruses.



 Mississippi chicken operators keeping watchful eye on Alabama bird flu cases [The Commercial Dispatch, 23 Mar 2017]

by Slim Smith

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Mississippi poultry growers are taking precautions against avian flu after two cases have popped up in Alabama. Photo by: Dispatch file photo

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Tom Tabler

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Debbie Lawrence

Reports of avian influenza, or bird flu, in Tennessee and Alabama -- including a case in nearby Pickens County -- are something Mississippi chicken growers should be keeping a watchful eye on, said Tom Tabler, a professor of Poultry Science for the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Tabler, who has written extensively on the subject based on his research at MSU, is well-versed on bird flu.

Debbie Lawrence, who has been keeping chickens on her property in Caledonia for about seven years, confessed she is not that familiar with the disease, although she has done "a little research online."

"I kind of hate to talk about it, because I don't know a lot," said Lawrence, who keeps 13 chickens in a backyard pen across the street from her business, Bloomers Nursery. "I'm very careful, I think. I don't sell chickens and don't plan to bring in any new ones right now. I just tend to my little flock and don't visit other flocks because I've heard the flu can be transported that way.

"I don't keep bird feeders out back where my chickens are because I've heard that wild birds can spread it," she said.

If she were one of his students, Tabler would give Lawrence a pretty good grade.

"She's definitely done her homework," Tabler said.

Cause for concern

The most recent cases of bird flu demonstrate the virus can affect anyone who raises chickens, from large commercial growers with dozens of chicken houses and thousands of chickens, to back-yard hobbyists such a Lawrence.

The case in Pickens County occurred in the latter, while the other Alabama case, in Montgomery County, sprung from a commercial grower.

Tabler said that there is little reason to believe these bird flu cases pose a risk to public safety -- he said he had never heard of anyone dying from bird flu in the U.S. In China, however, 161 people have died from contracting bird flu.

"There are many, many strains of bird flu," Tabler said. "What we have here in the United States are strains that are not really much of a threat to humans, but it can be devastating to chickens."

In 2015, an outbreak of bird flu led to the death or euthanization of more than 200,000 chickens, and while Tabler said the industry is better-prepared to address a disaster on a similar scale through measures that should enable chicken growers to react more quickly to a possible outbreak, they should be concerned.

In Mississippi, chicken/egg production is a $2.9 billion industry, the largest agricultural product in the state.

"I can tell you right now, this has the attention of all of the chicken processors and their growers," Tabler said.

There is no cure for bird flu, Tabler said, and the more virulent strain is almost always fatal to birds, he said.

"The good news with the cases in Alabama is that they are low pathogenic strains," Tabler said. "With the low path strain, chickens get sick for a while, but it runs its course and they will be fine. It's the high path strain that is deadly. Once one chicken gets that strain, it will die in a day or two, and within a few days, all the other chickens will get sick and die, too. But even though you can watch for the symptoms, there's nothing really you can do about it once the virus is there."

The bad news, Tabler said, and the reason why chicken growers are watchful, is that the strain found in the Alabama cases can move from low pathogenic to high.

"Most likely, in both cases, they'll depopulate -- or euthanize -- all those chickens to be on the safe side."

The owner of the chickens in Pickens County has decided to do that, while the commercial operator in Montgomery is under quarantine but has yet to make the decision to eliminate its stock.

How it happens

"Generally, avian flu is not that common here," Tabler said. "But if it does happen, this is the time of year you'll see it."

The virus is spread through migratory birds, most often geese and ducks, who carry the flu but are immune to the virus. Tabler said the excretions of ducks and geese, mostly droppings, are the main source of danger for chicken.

"Ducks and geese don't get into chicken pens, though," Tabler said. "While their manure is where the virus originates, in almost every case, the real cause for chickens getting the flu are because of a breakdown in viral security."

In simple terms, that breakdown occurs when people track the infected manure into their chicken enclosures.

The virus is so contagious that Tabler said chicken owners should be extremely careful.

"I would avoid going where other people are keeping chickens because you never know how they manage their flock. But even going to places other chicken growers go -- the feed store or co-op -- could be a risk of transmission. I tell people to change their boots, their clothes, even take a shower, before they go out to their pens this time of year. You cannot be too careful."

Tabler said commercial operators will go to great lengths when there is a potential for an outbreak.

"They'll put on new plastic boots and walk through dried chlorine before they go into (or leave) a chicken house," he said.

In the wake of the recent outbreaks, the state of Alabama has suspended sales of chickens at auctions and flea markets.

With no preventative medicine and no cure, the best hope is for hot weather, Tabler said.

"The virus doesn't handle the heat very well," he said. "Once the temperature gets to around 85 degrees and stays there, the virus will die."



 Austria eases poultry restrictions as bird flu threat fades [Reuters, 23 Mar 2017]

Austrian poultry will be allowed outdoors as of Saturday as the threat from bird flu is fading, the country's health ministry said, lifting a restriction put in place more than two months ago.

Austria said in January that it was ordering all poultry be kept indoors after the highly pathogenic H5N8 virus was found in dead wild birds near its borders with Germany and Switzerland, and other cases were reported in the region.

The virus, which is deadly for birds but has not been found in humans, has spread across Europe and the Middle East since late last year, leading to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of poultry, but the threat appears to be receding.

"A significant improvement in the situation has been observed since the beginning of March 2017, both in Austria and abroad," the Austrian health ministry said in a statement on Thursday, echoing recent comments by France.

"The Ministry for Health and Women is therefore lifting the order to keep poultry indoors as of Saturday, March 25," it added.

Other measures aimed at preventing the spread of the disease, such as requirements to protect the animals' food and water sources from wild birds, would remain in place, it added.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Dale Hudson)



 Bird flu found at Cullman chicken farm [AL.com, 23 Mar 2017]

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The Avian influenza virus is harvested from a chicken egg as part of a diagnostic process in this undated U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) handout image. (Erica Spackman/USDA/Handout/File Photo)

Agriculture officials say bird flu has been confirmed at another commercial chicken farm in Alabama.

The low-pathogenic illness found in birds at a Cullman County farm is similar to the one found in two other commercial operations in the state. The illness also has been detected at three backyard operations.

Officials said Thursday the farm with the latest outbreak is currently quarantined, and plans are being made on how to deal with the illness.

Bird flu has been found in three Southern states this month in what an expert says is the worst U.S. outbreak of the disease since 2015. More than 200,000 birds have been destroyed to stop the spread.

An expert at Auburn University says it's too early to say whether the outbreak with worsen or fade away.



 No health officers down with bird flu, says Subra [Free Malaysia Today, 23 Mar 2017]

by DEWAN RAKYAT

KUALA LUMPUR: Health Minister Dr S Subramaniam has dismissed the rumour that health services officers have come down with avian flu.

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Health minister says all health officers treating patients with H5N1 take protective measures, including wearing face masks and gloves.

He said none of the health ministry officers treating patients with the H5N1 virus had been infected.

Responding to an additional question by Ikmal Hisham Abdul Aziz (Umno-Tanah Merah) at the Dewan Rakyat today, Subramaniam said his officers had been told to take protective measures before treating others.

“It is a priority for our officers to look after (themselves) before they can look after others,” he said, adding that the officers had been told to put on face masks and gloves when treating patients.

The minister said according to the veterinary department, as of now, the virus had been detected in 28 spots in six districts in Kelantan. The districts are Kota Bharu, Pasir Mas, Tumpat, Bachok, Tanah Merah and Pasir Putih.

He added that tracking operations had started within a 300-metre radius from where the flu was traced.

The health minister said that hospitals were prepared to deal with the outbreak if the avian flu spread to human beings.

“We are monitoring for respiratory and influenza cases. Hospitals have also been instructed to prepare isolation wards.”

A few days ago, Subramaniam said there were no reports that the virus had spread to humans, and that it was still limited to poultry stock within the affected area.

The outbreak was first detected on March 6.

The strain of avian flu was confirmed among chickens at a backyard farm in Kelantan, according to a report by the World Organisation for Animal Health.

Over 1,000 birds have been culled within a 2km radius of the affected areas.

The H5N1 strain – which is different from the H7N9 virus that killed at least 110 people in China so far this year – has also been detected in Cambodia in recent weeks.

As a precaution to ensure the containment of the virus, the health minister urged the veterinary service department to tighten checks at borders with Thailand.

Meanwhile, Singapore has also stepped up existing measures against bird flu in response to the outbreak in Malaysia.



 Bird flu is back in Western Cameroon, the main production area in the country [Business in Cameroon, 23 Mar 2017]

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(Business in Cameroon) - 25,000 chickens. This is the number of birds killed since 13 Mars in poultry farms in the town of Foumbot, located in the Noun district, Western Cameroon, local sources declare. These slaughterhouse operations, we learned, follow the discovery of the H5N1 bird flu virus on dead chickens in the farms of Mr Charles Tsagué and Jean Meli, two poultry farmers of the area.

Following the revelation of the results of the tests carried out on these chickens by the Yaoundé veterinarian laboratory extension, the Governor of the Western region, Awa Fonka Augustin, even signed on 17 March 2017, a decree prohibiting the sale and movement of poultry in the Noun district. Farm cleaning operations are also underway.

The Western region, main chicken production area in Cameroon, is thus going through its 3rd bird flu epidemic in less than a year. To the great displeasure of poultry farmers, who had already announced losses of about FCfa 16 billion at the end of the May 2016 epidemic, which broke out in the capital of the country, before spreading to several regions in Cameroon, including in the West.



 Covington County farm undergoes precautionary testing for bird flu [WSFA 12 News, 23 Mar 2017]

By Hannah Lane

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(Source: WSFA 12 News File Photo)

Officials with the State of Alabama confirmed Wednesday that a chicken farm in Covington County is being tested for possible bird flu. The state veterinarian's office confirmed the samples are being tested.

Currently, three flocks of chickens at poultry breeding operations in Lauderdale, Pickens, and Cullman counties have tested positive for bird flu, along with two backyard flocks in Madison and Jackson counties.

Tests from the five farms have come back positive for low-pathogenic strain of bird flu which does not pose a risk to humans or the food supply. No affected bird has entered the food chain.

Officials with the Alabama Agriculture and Industries Department said testing of the Covington County farm, which is not being named, is a precautionary measure.

Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan said a veterinarian observed the flock and saw some things he didn't like, so he requested tests to be run for bird flu. McMillan noted the vet didn't see symptoms the department is concerned about, so this is to be extra safe.

Alabama typically runs more than 400,000 tests a year, and every flock is tested before leaving their grower. A stop movement order remains in effect.

The state veterinarian's office says warmer weather can help kill off bird flu.



 Bird flu outbreak in western Kentucky [14 News WFIE Evansville, 23 Mar 2017]

by Eunice De La Torre

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KENTUCKY (WFIE) -
Bird flu found on a poultry farm in western Kentucky forced the State Department of Agriculture to ban farmers from bringing birds in from other states.

State agents quarantined the farm where they found the flu and killed the 22,000 birds there.

Officials say none of the infected birds made it into the food chain, and they say limiting the movement of birds should help prevent the spread of the disease.

Zoonotic Bird Flu News - from 22 Mar 2017



 (Avian flu) Mutated virus, more dangerous to humans, detected [Hong Kong Standard (press release), 22 Mar 2017]

A research team from the University of Hong Kong has identified a mutation in the H7N9 virus, which may explain why there has been a major outbreak of the avian flu strain on the mainland since autumn last year.

More than 500 people have been infected with the bird flu virus since then. More than a fifth of them have died.

One of the team's key investigators, Professor Chen Honglin, said the mutation has made the H7N9 virus much more infectious to humans.

Chen said the mutation emerged as early as 2000. He said by 2012 or 2013, almost all H9N2 virus carried this mutation. -RTHK



 HK researchers identify mutation in H7N9 virus [Shanghai Daily (subscription), 22 Mar 2017]

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A mutation in H7N9 avian flu virus that can enhance the ability of the virus to infect humans was identified by researchers from the University of Hong Kong, which made the finding public on Wednesday.

The research team from the university's State Key Laboratory for Emerging Infectious Diseases of and the department of Microbiology analyzed the H7N9 virus genome collected from 2013 onwards and revealed that efficient infection of both avian and human cells by H7N9 viruses is supported by a unique nucleotide substitution (NS-G540A) in NS segment, where the mutation is located within a previously undefined exonic splicing enhancer (ESE).

Mutation in ESE identified in the viral genome of H7N9 virus enhances the ability of virus replication in mammalian cells. It is notable that human infections with H10N8 and H5N6 subtype avian influenza viruses contain the same mutation in the viral genome.

This mutated nucleotide emerged in early 2000 in H9N2 strains and has since spread in avian influenza viruses, becoming the dominant genotype among avian influenza viruses from 2012 onwards, the researchers said.

Viruses that can infect humans are normally refrained from replication and transmission in avian cells. Yet the mutation in H7N9 virus can enhance the virus replication in mammalian and human cells.

The mutation enables H7N9 virus to possess the cross-species transmission ability to infect humans. The primed condition of NS-G540A among H7N9 virus enhances replication ability in mammalian hosts and facilitates viral acquisition of other adaptive mutations during virus infection, which enables H7N9 virus to infect humans more effectively than other avian influenza viruses.

"This study provides a plausible mechanism to explain the molecular properties which allows H7N9 virus to infect humans while retaining the ability to circulate in avian species," Chen Honglin, Professor of the university's Faculty of Medicine said.

The finding provides an important biomarker for monitoring the emergence and transmission of avian influenza viruses in humans and preventing human-to-human infection of the viruses, Chen said, adding the mutation can also serve as a novel target of anti-influenza drug development.

The research has been published in the international journal Nature Communications.



 Alabama Confirms Bird Flu in 2 Poultry Flocks [Insurance Journal, 22 Mar 2017]

Alabama officials have confirmed bird flu in two poultry flocks, just a week after three commercial breeders had to kill their chickens across the state line in Tennessee.

The state veterinarian announced that chickens are under quarantine after testing positive for the disease at a commercial breeding operation in Pickens County near the Mississippi line.

Dr. Tony Frazier’s statement says the disease also was found in a backyard flock in Madison County, near the Tennessee line.

Agriculture officials say this strain of avian flu poses no risk to humans and has not entered the food chain.

The Alabama Poultry and Egg Association says poultry is Alabama’s largest agriculture sector, generating about $15 billion in annual revenues and employing more than 86,000 people.



 East Coast poultry producers: Keep your ‘bird flu’ guard up [American Agriculturist, 22 Mar 2017]

Alabama, Tennessee and Wisconsin avian influenza cases raise urgency for East Coast vigilance and biosecurity. British try preventive laser-zinger on wild birds.

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FOWL SITU: East Coast poultry producers are urged to be on guard against avian influenza.

As of last Wednesday, three avian influenza outbreaks were confirmed: first in Tennessee, then in Wisconsin and most recently in Alabama. The H7N9 strain in Alabama and Tennessee has highly pathogenic viruses, according to tests at USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa. The low-path H5N2 strain was found at a Wisconsin turkey farm along the Mississippi flyway.

“Even though Tennessee [and Alabama] is hundreds of miles from Pennsylvania’s borders, we must be on guard,” cautions Pennsylvania State Veterinarian Dr. David Wolfgang. It’s migration season for wild birds, which can carry this disease, so this is a particularly risky time for commercial operations and backyard flocks. Like Wisconsin, Tennessee and Alabama are within the Mississippi migratory flyway, which connects with the Atlantic flyway.

HPAI H7N9 is a different virus from what affected the United States in 2014-2015, explains Wolfgang. It’s also different from the Eurasian

A (H7N9) epidemic currently still ongoing in China. That epidemic, which began last October, has already infected 460 people via bird-to-human contact — but not via yet human-to-human transmission, he adds.

The primary difference between the two viruses is the mortality rate. With low-path avian flu, domesticated poultry may show little or no signs of illness; high-path avian flu is often fatal.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk to people to be low with these strains. No human infections with these viruses have been detected at this time, confirms Wolfgang. The China strain is a different subtype of high-path H7N9 and is causing human illnesses.

Make a flock plan

Agriculture Department officials from New York to Virginia are strongly urging flock owners to develop a site-specific HPAI flock plan. Pennsylvania’s Agriculture Department offers a generic form on its website to help both large and small poultry owners develop their own flock plans.

Flock plans address risk mitigation, depopulation, disposal, and cleaning and disinfection methods.

Premises identification is also important. Premises ID numbers speed state officials’ ability to locate and contact producers in event HPAI is found within a state, and to share any precautions producers may need to take given the proximity of an outbreak to their operation.

Follow these biosecurity measures

Biosecurity plans should focus on cleanliness and isolating domestic birds from those in the wild, explains Wolfgang. Biosecurity vigilance includes these measures:

• Eliminate direct or indirect contact with wild waterfowl and other birds.
• Keep poultry flocks away from any water source possibly contaminated by wild birds.
• Permit only essential workers and vehicles to enter the farm.
• Provide clean clothing and disinfection facilities for employees and any approved farm visitors.
• Thoroughly clean and disinfect equipment and vehicles, including tires and undercarriage, entering and leaving the farm.
• Do not loan or borrow equipment or vehicles from other farms.
• Avoid visiting other poultry farms. If farm visits are necessary, change footwear and clothing before working with your flock.
• Keep livestock, domestic animals, rodents and other pests away.
• Do not bring in birds from slaughter channels, especially live-bird markets.

Aside from preparedness, Wolfgang urges immediately reporting any signs of distress or elevated mortality rates to state officials. A few hours can make a world of difference when it comes to containing this disease. In Pennsylvania, call the Ag Department’s Bureau of Animal Health at 717-772-2852.

For more about HPAI, including biosecurity measures and premises registration, visit the department’s website at agriculture.pa.gov☞ Department of Agriculture , and click on the “Avian Influenza” box on the right side of the home page.



 Avian Flu Scan for Mar 22, 2017 [CIDRAP, 22 Mar 2017]

H5N1, H5N8 outbreaks; H7N9 mutation findings

H5N1 strikes again in Vietnam as European countries report more H5N8

Vietnam today reported another highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu outbreak, as two European countries—Romania and Slovenia—reported several more H5N8 outbreaks in wild birds and poultry, according to the latest updates from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

In Vietnam, the new H5N1 event began on Mar 15 in backyard poultry in Can Tho province in the southern part of the country. The virus killed 396 of 794 susceptible birds, and authorities culled the remaining ones as part of the outbreak response. Since the first of the year, Vietnam has reported several H5N1 outbreaks and is also battling H5N6.

Elsewhere, Romanian veterinary officials reported 19 more H5N8 outbreaks, 17 in backyard poultry and 2 involving wild birds. Most were reported from Teleorman County in the south, with other locations including Bucharest, the country's capital, and Constanta County. The outbreaks began from Feb 23 to Mar 17, killing 167 of 501 poultry, plus 4 wild birds.

Slovenia reported 10 more outbreaks involving 253 wild birds—all but 3 were mute swans— found dead from Jan 26 to Feb 17 in four municipalities.

H7N9 mutation noted that could affect ability to infect poultry, people

A research team from Hong Kong University (HKU) yesterday described a mutation in an H7N9 virus isolated in China that gives the virus the capacity to infect humans while circulating in poultry. They reported their findings in Nature Communications.

After analyzing the genome of a 2013 H7N9 virus, they identified unique NS-G540A substitution that it inherited from the H9N2 virus that provided the internal genes for H7N9.

For H7N9, the mutation enhanced replication in mammalian cells and mice, while retaining the ability to replicate in avian cells.

They note that the endemic nature of H7N9 and persistent reemergence in humans is unusual, but add that their findings provide a possible mechanism to explain the pattern.

Chen Honglin, PhD, corresponding author and professor at State Key Laboratory for Emerging Infectious Diseases at HKU, said in an HKU news release that the mutation could provide an important biomarker for monitoring the emergence and transmission of avian flu viruses in humans and preventing human-to-human infection. "The mutation can also serve as a novel target of anti-influenza drug development," he said.

Mar 21 Nat Commun ☞ Xiaofeng Huang et al 

Mar 22 HKU ☞ The University of Hong Kong Press Release 



 Updated: Low pathogenic AI detected in Kentucky [Meat & Poultry (registration), 22 Mar 2017]

BY ERICA SHAFFER

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The affected premises is under quarantine, commercial poultry flock culled.

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Federal and state authorities confirmed the presence of low pathogenic H7N9 avian influenza (LPAI) in a commercial poultry flock in western Kentucky, the Kentucky Dept. of Agriculture reported.

The Murray State Univ. Breathitt Veterinary Center, Hopkinsville, Kentucky, made the initial detection during a routine pre-slaughter test, according to the agency. There were no clinical signs of the disease in the birds, but the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, confirmed the presence of the virus, said Kentucky State Veterinarian Robert Stout.

State officials quarantined the affected premises, which are in Christian County, and approximately 22,000 hens were culled as a precautionary measure, Stout said. LPAI may cause no disease or mild illness, however highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) can cause severe disease with high mortality in a flock.

The Office of the State Veterinarian and the Animal and Plant Health Administration (APHIS) of the US Dept. of Agriculture are conducting surveillance on flocks within a six-mile radius of the affected farm. Stout said the company that operates the farm is conducting additional surveillance testing on other commercial facilities the company operates in the area.

The Kentucky Dept. of Agriculture reported that poultry and egg sales generated an estimated $1.2 billion in cash receipts to Kentucky farmers in 2015. Kentucky farmers produced 307.7 million broilers and nearly 1.3 billion eggs in 2015.

New detections in Alabama

Meanwhile, State Veterinarian Tony Frazier confirmed that a flock of chickens at commercial poultry breeding operation in Pickens County, Alabama and backyard flock in Madison County, Alabama both tested positive for LPAI. Officials established surveillance zones surrounding the premises in both Pickens and Madison counties.

“The health of our poultry is critically important at this time,” Dr. Frazier said in a statement.

“With confirmed cases of low pathogenic avian influenza in Alabama in both commercial and backyard flocks, the order reducing the assembly and commingling of poultry is the most effective way to practice strict biosecurity measures in our state.”

The virus was detected at the commercial poultry farm during routine screening, the Alabama Dept. of Agriculture & Industries reported. The samples from the Pickens County flock were submitted to the agency’s State Diagnostic Laboratory in Auburn, Alabama. The samples, which were suspected positive for avian influenza, were forwarded to the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa. NVSL confirmed the presence of LPAI in the commercials flock. The agency quarantined the flock and began control measures as a precaution.

(Updated to reflect new findings in Alabama.)



 Avian influenza: Fowl plague [Himalayan Times, 22 Mar 2017]

by KEDAR KARKI

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Bird keepers should be aware that some avian diseases can be transmitted to humans.
It is important to note that such diseases are uncommon and they should not discourage bird keeping. For most people avian diseases do not pose a serious threat but bird keepers should be aware of them and seek medical assistance if necessary.

The infectious agents may be protozoal, fungal, bacterial, chalmydial or viral. Individual susceptibility and seriousness of these various microbial infections vary with age, health status, immune status and whether early therapeutic intervention is sought.

Avian influenza chalmydiosis, salmonellosis and colibacillosis are the most common. Chalmydiosis salmonellosis avian influenza may be serious and life threatening.

Avian influenza type belongs to paramxo viridae. Avian influenza can occur in most if not all species of birds. Avian influenza is categorized as mild or highly pathogenic H5 and H7 virus types that belong to highly pathogenic type.

The mild form produces loss of appetite, respiratory diseases and diarrhea. The highly pathogenic form produces facial swelling blue comb and wattles and dehydration with respiratory distress. Dark red/white spots develop in the legs and combs of chickens.

There can be blood tinged discharge from nostrils. Egg production and hatchability decreases.

There can be an increase in production of soft shelled eggs. Avian influenza virus can remain for long periods of time at moderate temperatures and can live indefinitely in frozen materials.

As a result, the disease can be spread through improper disposal of infected carcasses and manure. Avian influenza can spread by contaminated shoes, clothing crate and other equipment. Insects and rodents may mechanically carry the virus from infected to susceptible poultry.

Chalmydia psittaci is an unusual bacteria like organism found worldwide and affects more than 100 avian species. It causes a disease called psittacosis or parrot fever when it occurs in psittacine birds and the disease is called nithosis.

Chalmydiosis is primarily transmitted by inhalation of contaminated fecal dust and is spread by birds which are the main reservoirs for the disease. The organism is excreted in both feces and nasal secretions.

Shedding is sporadic and in usually induced by stress. A carrier state can persist for years. The organism survives by drying which facilitates oral spread and allows transmission on contaminated clothing and equipment. Chalmydiosis can be transmitted to birds from bird feces and birds to humans. Human to human transmission can occur mainly by exposure to saliva.

Chalmydiosis is an occupational hazard for persons working with psittacines and pigeons or people working in turkey slaughter plants and avian diagnostic laboratories. The incubation period of chalmydiosis is 4-15 days although 10 days is most common. In affected birds’ diarrhea, coughing and ocular nasal discharges are common signs.

There may be high mortality if the diseases are unrecognized or untreated. In turkeys there is a drop in egg production. In humans chalmydiosis manifests itself as a feverish respiratory disease. There is usually a sudden onset of chills, muscles and joint pain, headache, cough, loss of appetite and chest pain.

Complications may result from an enlarged spleen, inflammation of the heart muscle and reduced heart beat rate.

There are approximately 200 different serotypes of salmonella species. Most animals are susceptible to salmonella infection. This bacterial infection occurs most frequently in stressed individuals.

Common clinical symptoms in all species include diarrhea, vomiting and a low grade fever.

Infections can progress to dehydration weakness and sometimes, especially in the young and very old, death may occur.

The incubation period is 6-72 hours although 12-36 hours is most common. Salmonella is transmitted by ingestion of food contaminated by fecal material. Excretion of bacteria varies from a few days to weeks.

In some instances, typhoid fever infects humans. Salmonella enteriditis in fecal material is able to penetrate egg shells, and may be present in uncooked eggs.

Colibacillosis is caused by escheria coli infection. E. coli is a bacteria which normally inhibits the intestinal tract of all animals. There are a number of strains in many species.

Not all strains are pathogenic. In poultry, E.coli infections may cause septicemia, chronic respiratory diseases, sinusitis, pericardistis and salpingitis.

Humans with colibacillosis usually manifest diarrhea, which may be complicated by other syndromes depending on the e.coli serotype. This complication may include fever, dysentery, shock, and purpura.

The incubation periods are 12 hours to 5days although 12-72 hrs is most common.

Transmission is via fecal oral rout. Colibacillosis is often food or water borne.

Bird keepers should be aware that they can contract certain illnesses from birds. The frequency of disease transmission from birds to humans is low, but the very young, the elderly and those with compromised immune system should be cautious.

Many of these diseases are transmitted by food contaminated by fecal matter. Prevention simply involves proper hygienic and sanitation. Wearing a face mask to avoid inhaling bird dust is also recommended.

Karki is M.V.Sc. Preventive Vet. Med, Public Health




 HK researchers identify mutation in H7N9 virus [Xinhua, 22 Mar 2017]

HONG KONG, March 22 (Xinhua) -- A mutation in H7N9 avian flu virus that can enhance the ability of the virus to infect humans was identified by researchers from the University of Hong Kong, which made the finding public on Wednesday.

The research team from the university's State Key Laboratory for Emerging Infectious Diseases of and the department of Microbiology analyzed the H7N9 virus genome collected from 2013 onwards and revealed that efficient infection of both avian and human cells by H7N9 viruses is supported by a unique nucleotide substitution (NS-G540A) in NS segment, where the mutation is located within a previously undefined exonic splicing enhancer (ESE).

Mutation in ESE identified in the viral genome of H7N9 virus enhances the ability of virus replication in mammalian cells. It is notable that human infections with H10N8 and H5N6 subtype avian influenza viruses contain the same mutation in the viral genome.

This mutated nucleotide emerged in early 2000 in H9N2 strains and has since spread in avian influenza viruses, becoming the dominant genotype among avian influenza viruses from 2012 onwards, the researchers said.

Viruses that can infect humans are normally refrained from replication and transmission in avian cells. Yet the mutation in H7N9 virus can enhance the virus replication in mammalian and human cells.

The mutation enables H7N9 virus to possess the cross-species transmission ability to infect humans. The primed condition of NS-G540A among H7N9 virus enhances replication ability in mammalian hosts and facilitates viral acquisition of other adaptive mutations during virus infection, which enables H7N9 virus to infect humans more effectively than other avian influenza viruses.

"This study provides a plausible mechanism to explain the molecular properties which allows H7N9 virus to infect humans while retaining the ability to circulate in avian species," Chen Honglin, Professor of the university's Faculty of Medicine said.

The finding provides an important biomarker for monitoring the emergence and transmission of avian influenza viruses in humans and preventing human-to-human infection of the viruses, Chen said, adding the mutation can also serve as a novel target of anti-influenza drug development.

The research has been published in the international journal Nature Communications.



 Concern spreads as chickens at poultry farm in Pickens Co. test positive for bird flu [WBRC FOX6 News - WBRC.com, 22 Mar 2017]

By Kelvin Reynolds

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GORDO, AL (WBRC) -

The Alabama State Department of Agriculture and Industries confirms a flock of chickens at a poultry farm in Pickens County tested positive for Avian Influenza.

That's bad news for people like Bruce Dyer of Gordo who enjoy eating chicken. The town is home to several poultry farms and related businesses.

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"We got a big chicken grower right here in Pickens County in Gordo, Alabama, and I think if something is wrong they'd take it off the market," Dyer added.

That's why businesses like Peco Foods, Inc. put up signs warning most people to stay away.

There's growing concern that the disease is spreading.

"The main concern is people working on the farms or who have reason to go to the farms, like propane drivers or people who may be doing work on the farm. They're the ones who can potentially spread it," said Ken Maclin, an Extension Specialist with Auburn University.

This suspected strain of bird flu does not pose a risk to the food supply, and state agriculture officials say no affected animals entered the food chain.

A controlled zone is set up to quarantine the flocks of chickens. Flocks that test positive for the disease will be euthanized.



 More chickens in Alabama confirmed with 'low-pathogenic' avian flu [Chattanooga Times Free Press, 22 Mar 2017]

by Ben Benton

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laboratory employee works with avian influenza virus samples.

Alabama agriculture officials say chickens at a poultry operation in Pickens County and a backyard flock in Madison County have both tested positive for low-pathogenic avian influenza,
state Veterinarian Dr. Tony Frazier said in a statement this week.

The primary difference between low-pathogenic avian influenza and highly-pathogenic avian influenza is the mortality rate among poultry, officials said. Avian influenza virus strains often occur naturally in wild migratory birds without causing illness in those birds.

With the low pathogenic variety, domesticated chickens and turkeys may show little or no signs of illness, but the highly-pathogenic version is often fatal for domesticated poultry. Some Tennessee cases are the more deadly variety, officials said.

Dr. Frazier reminds all poultry owners and producers to strictly adhere to the biosecurity guidelines mentioned above. For now, backyard flock owners should refrain from moving birds offsite or introducing new birds.

The ADAI Poultry Division is available to answer any questions concerning movement of poultry and should be notified at 334-240-6584 and/or USDA at 1-866-536-7593 if birds show unusual signs of disease (flu-like symptoms) or flocks experience unexplained deaths.



 Avian Flu hits flock of 22,000 chickens in western Kentucky [Kentucky Today (registration), 22 Mar 2017]

By TOM LATEK

FRANKFORT, Ky. – A strain of Avian Flu has been found at a Western Kentucky commercial poultry operation, leading to 22,000 hens being euthanized.

Kentucky State Veterinarian Robert C. Stout said the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, confirmed the presence of H7N9 low pathogenic avian influenza in samples taken from the Christian County site, after it was initially detected by the Murray State University Breathitt Veterinary Center in Hopkinsville, during a routine pre-slaughter test last week.

Stout said there were no clinical signs of disease in the birds. The affected premises were placed under quarantine, and the flock was “depopulated”, as a precautionary measure.

“Dr. Stout and his staff have extensive experience and expertise in animal disease control and eradication,” said Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles. “They are uniquely qualified to contain this outbreak, so our domestic customers and international trading partners can remain confident in Kentucky poultry.”

Low pathogenic avian influenza, such as that found in Christian County, may cause no or mild disease, while highly pathogenic avian influenza can lead to severe disease with high mortality rates, according to the Ag Commissioner’s office.

Stout says officials are conducting tests on flocks within a six mile radius of the affected farm, while the company operating the farm is also testing other commercial facilities it operates in that area.

The U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website says avian flu does not normally affect humans, but reminds people that proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 degrees kills bacteria and viruses.



 Stabenow asks USDA for information on bird flu response [Tri-State Livestock News, 22 Mar 2017]

Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Stabenow, D-Mich. on Friday asked Acting Deputy Agriculture Secretary Michael Young, the highest ranking official at USDA right now, to explain how the Trump administration is responding to avian influenza around the country.

As Stabenow noted, USDA has found highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in a commercial flock of 73,000 chickens in Tennessee, and on Thursday detected the same HPAI strain in a nearby flock. Two cases of low-pathogenic avian influenza were also discovered in Wisconsin and Tennessee, followed by three additional suspected cases in Alabama this month.

In a letter to Young, Stabenow asked who is in charge of the effort to fight avian influenza, whether the Trump administration's hiring freeze will affect the effort to fight the disease, and who will handle international trade questions about the presence of HPAI in U.S. commercial flocks, including restrictions that other countries place on imports of U.S. poultry.

Stabenow's questions to Young were not directly political in nature, but they did seem to reflect concern about the lack of high-level political leadership at USDA in the first two months of President Donald Trump's administration.

The White House did not send the full nomination papers for Sonny Perdue, Trump's nominee for Agriculture secretary, to the Senate Agriculture Committee until last week. His confirmation hearing is set for Thursday.

USDA is responsible for monitoring and eradicating avian flu outbreaks, Stabenow noted.

"While the department has a thoughtful response plan in place for avian flu detections, there are numerous leadership positions at the USDA that have been vacant since the beginning of the Trump administration," she said. "Additionally, the recent federal hiring freeze has raised questions about the USDA's ability to hire temporary veterinarians and other experts to help manage the response.

"The recent detections come in the wake of a devastating HPAI outbreak in 2015 that claimed 48 million birds and caused unprecedented interruptions in production and trade. Nationwide, poultry producers are still recovering from financial losses.

"The confirmation of HPAI presents a threat to our nation's biosecurity, rural economies, and export markets," Stabenow wrote. "The 2015 outbreak demonstrated that a rapid and coordinated response to disease outbreaks is critical. We value the important role the USDA plays in protecting animal health and leading the response to recent outbreaks of avian influenza."

–The Hagstrom Report



 Poultry lab advises farmers to take precautions against bird flu [WFXL FOX 31, 22 Mar 2017]

by Mary Green

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Dr. Brian Jordon speaks about poultry vaccinations at the Deep South Poultry Conference on Wednesday in Tifton. / Mary Green

Cases of bird flu have been found in chickens in nearby states, and though there has never been a diagnosed case of bird flu in Georgia, the Georgia Poultry Lab said farmers should take precautions.

Dr. Louise Dufour-Zavala said at the Deep South Poultry Conference in Tifton on Wednesday that they’re closely watching the disease and if it were to reach Georgia, they have a response plan and “we feel pretty good about that.”

She said the virus travels through wild water fowl and their feces, so good security around chicken houses is the best way to prevent it from getting inside, meaning farmers should wear their protective equipment when they go in chicken houses.

“We put plastic boots, and we put coveralls and gloves and bonnets,” she said. “And then as we go into the chicken house, we have a line of separation. That may be a foot bed, may be a change of footwear, and that way, whatever we just touched outside does not get inside, and when we get out, we take all this off and leave it.”

Dr. Dufour-Zavala also reminds diners that avian influenza does not affect food safety, just the chickens themselves.



 Bird-flu outbreak in Asia puts producers in a bind [MarketWatch, 22 Mar 2017]

By Lucy Craymer

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Avian influenza is spreading across Asia in what may be the worst outbreak in seven years

Prices in China for broiler chickens, a breed grown for meat, are down one-third from a year ago

Avian influenza is spreading across Asia in what may be the worst outbreak in seven years, as the human death toll rises and chickens are culled in Japan, South Korea and China in an effort to contain the disease.

In January and February, 140 people in China died from bird flu, according to the latest data from the country’s National Health and Family Planning Commission, the highest number since 2010, when 147 died.

The outbreak is also upending the poultry industry, as wariness over chicken products weighs on prices in China, while other markets rely on imports from countries such as the U.S. to ease domestic-supply shortages.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization said that as of early March, there were more reported human cases of H7N9—the current strain of bird flu in China—than the combined number of human cases caused by other types of the virus anywhere in the world.

An expanded version of this report ☞ The Wall Street Journal  



 Expert: Bird Flu Outbreak Nation's Worst Since 2015 [U.S. News & World Report, 22 Mar 2017]

By JAY REEVES

An expert says a bird flu outbreak that has led officials to euthanize more than 200,000 animals in three Southern states is the nation's worst since 2015.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A bird flu outbreak that has led officials to euthanize more than 200,000 animals in three Southern states already is the nation's worst since 2015 and new cases are still popping up, an expert said Wednesday.

Agriculture officials are trying to limit the damage, but it's unclear whether quarantines, transportation bans and mass killings will stop the spread, said Joseph Hess, a poultry science professor at Auburn University.

The disease was first confirmed in southern Tennessee earlier this month and has since been detected in northern Alabama and western Kentucky.

"We're at the point where it's a little here and a little there. It could fade away, but it could blow up into something bigger," said Hess, who also works with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

State officials say no infected birds have entered the nation's poultry supply, and the U.S. food chain isn't at risk.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture said Tuesday that it was temporarily banning the transportation of poultry after a low-pathogenic form of the disease was found in a commercial flock of 22,000 hens in western Kentucky. The farm was placed under quarantine and the birds were killed.

The announcement came as the state of Alabama confirmed the presence of low-pathogenic bird flu in two flocks there, where more than 42,000 animals have been euthanized. High-pathogenic bird flu, a deadlier form of the illness, was previously detected in Tennessee, where 145,000 birds were put to death.

Hess said the illness is carried by waterfowl, which don't get ill but can pass along the disease to poultry.

The current outbreak has affected large commercial poultry houses, where at-risk birds often are put to death by the thousands with foam that smothers them, and smaller, backyard operations.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said a flock of 84,000 turkeys had been confirmed with a low-pathogenic bird flu virus in Wisconsin.

The viruses in the current outbreaks are different from the high-pathogenic virus that resulted in the loss of nearly 50 million birds in the Midwest chicken egg and turkey industry in 2015.



 Bird flu outbreak is nation's worst in years [AL.com, 22 Mar 2017]

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The Avian influenza virus is harvested from a chicken egg as part of a diagnostic process in this undated U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) handout image. (Erica Spackman/USDA/Handout/File Photo)

A bird flu outbreak that has resulted in the euthanasia of more than 200,000 animals in three Southern states already is the nation's worst since 2015 and new cases are still popping up, an expert said Wednesday.

Agriculture officials are trying to limit the damage from the disease, but it's unclear whether quarantines, transportation bans and mass killings will stop the spread, said Joseph Hess, a poultry science professor at Auburn University.

The disease was first confirmed in southern Tennessee earlier this month and has since been detected in northern Alabama and western Kentucky.

"We're at the point where it's a little here and a little there. It could fade away, but it could blow up into something bigger," said Hess, who also works with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

State officials say no infected birds have entered the nation's poultry supply, and the U.S. food chain isn't at risk.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture said Tuesday that it was temporarily banning the transportation of poultry after a low-pathogenic form of the disease was found in a commercial flock of 22,000 hens in western Kentucky. The farm was placed under quarantine and the birds were killed.

The announcement came as the state of Alabama confirmed the presence of low-pathogenic bird flu in two flocks there, where more than 42,000 animals have been euthanized. High-pathogenic bird flu, a deadlier form of the illness, was previously detected in Tennessee, where 145,000 birds were put to death.

Hess said the illness is carried by waterfowl, which don't get ill but can pass along the disease to poultry.

The current outbreak has affected large commercial poultry houses, where at-risk birds typically are put to death by the thousands with foam that smothers them, and smaller, backyard operations.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said a flock of 84,000 turkeys had been confirmed with a low-pathogenic bird flu virus in Wisconsin.

None of the current outbreaks have been linked to the same high-pathogenic virus that resulted in the loss of millions of birds in the Midwest chicken egg and turkey industry in 2015.



 Latvia vigilant over possible outbreak of avian flu [Famagusta Gazette, 22 Mar 2017]

Latvia is taking preventive measures ahead of a possible outbreak of the avian flu, as its neighbor country Lithuania has reported infected cases.

Maris Balodis, the head of the Latvian Food and Veterinary Service, said in an interview with LNT television on Monday that cases of avian flu have already been reported in the Lithuanian cities of Klaipeda and Kaunas and that it was quite possible that some infected water birds were already in Latvia but have yet to be detected.

According to Balodis, once avian flu is found in domestic birds, the affected farm will be quarantined and transportation of poultry products from the farm will be restricted for more than a month.

The Food and Veterinary Service is already conducting preventive inspections on bird keepers and poultry farmers to ensure that they are complying with the ban on letting their flocks outside from March 1 to June 1.

"People have to realize that they need to protect their flocks because the disease is contagious, with 100 percent mortality," Balodis said.

He said police would be asked to get involved in the inspections.

An outbreak of avian flu at a large poultry farm might mean huge losses for the national economy, he warned. "One such big poultry farm with approximately one million birds might cost the state around 5 to 6 million euros," Balodis said.

To keep avian flu at bay, Latvia's largest egg producer Balticovo is planning to spend 280,000 euros on sanitary containers that will be installed at the company's plants in several towns and cities to protect the company's 2.5 million egg laying hens and young fowl, Balticovo commercial director Toms Auskaps told Baltic News Service.

Putnu Fabrika Kekava (Kekava), Latvia's leading poultry meat producer, is planning to spend half a million euros on increased biosafety controls, the company's spokeswoman Maija Avota informed.

The infection has been spreading along the Baltic-White Sea migration route which crosses Latvia. Experts consider open fields and pastures to be the riskiest areas as thousands of migratory birds stop there on their journey south each year to rest and forage.

In previous years, avian flu affected birds mostly in Mediterranean countries, while the birds migrating on the Baltic-White Sea route stayed free of the disease, said Antra Stipniece, an ornithologist at the Institute of Biology of the University of Latvia.



 Breakthrough in H7N9 study a boost for bird flu drug research [TODAYonline, 22 Mar 2017]

Gene mutations found to be behind the rise of the infectious strain


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Scientists analysed the DNA of H7N9 bird flu virus strains collected since the 2013 outbreak, and identified a gene mutation that allowed it to adapt to human cells. Reuters file photo.

HONG KONG — A team of researchers at the University of Hong Kong has cracked the mystery behind how the deadly H7N9 virus has attained a higher ability to infect humans while also being contagious among avian species, placing the city at the forefront of bird flu drug development.

Scientists analysed the DNA of H7N9 virus strains collected since the 2013 outbreak, and identified a gene mutation that allowed it to adapt to human cells.

The research, headed by Professor Chen Honglin of the university’s State Key Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases, was published in the international scientific journal Nature Communications.

Chen said the findings could “help monitor the emergence and transmission of the bird flu virus in humans and prevent human-to-human infection, as well as provide a new target for antivirus drug development”.

The first confirmed infections of the new H7N9 strain of bird flu were reported on mainland China in March 2013. It began to spread across the country and even overseas.

A latest wave surfaced in mainland China in October and Hong Kong has recorded five imported cases so far.

As of Saturday (March 18), there were a total of 1,329 confirmed human H7N9 cases around the world since the 2013 outbreak, claiming at least 492 lives.

Most of the cases were from mainland China, while Hong Kong registered 21 and 10 other incidents were distributed across Taiwan, Canada, Macau, and Malaysia, according to latest figures in the weekly avian influenza report by the Centre for Health Protection.

The HKU study found that a gene mutation with the H9N2 strain occurred in the 2013 H7N9 virus, combining with genes from other viruses carried by wild birds, to evolve into the current H7N9 strain that can infect humans.

Chen said that it was rare for avian viruses to be transmitted to humans, but the mutation in this case was particularly aggressive and adaptable.

He added there was no evidence however that this could result in higher risks of infection between humans. The unique mutation has also not been detected in other avian viruses.

Signs and symptoms of H7N9 infection in people mainly start with a fever and cough. In some cases, patients can suffer from severe pneumonia, septic shock and multi-organ failure, leading to death.

Chen warned that as long as people were exposed to infected birds or contaminated environments, more illnesses could be expected.

He said: “There is currently no publicly available vaccine to protect against the H7N9 virus infection. One has to keep good personal hygiene habits and stay away from high-risk places like wet markets.” SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST




 Preventing spread of H5N1 [The Borneo Post, 22 Mar 2017]

by Jacob Achoi

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State restricts livestock imports, screens visitors from Peninsular Malaysia as precaution

KUCHING: The state is restricting livestock imports from Peninsular Malaysia, particularly Kelantan, due to the outbreak of avian flu (H5N1) there.

Public Health Assistant Minister Datuk Dr Jerip Susil said visitors from Peninsular Malaysia, especially from Kelantan, are being screened upon their arrival in the state.

“Cases of bird flu happen only in Peninsular Malaysia, particularly in Kelantan. Sarawak is well protected for two reasons – we have surveillance (screening) of all travellers from Peninsular Malaysia, particularly from Kelantan.

“We are also monitoring any kind of meat imported from Peninsular Malaysia. We are taking the precautionary measures, and in a way the state is well under surveillance,” Dr Jerip told reporters after presenting RM630,000 in minor rural project (MRP) grants to 30 recipients from Mambong state constituency yesterday.

On Sunday, the Kelantan Veterinary Services Department destroyed 1,800 birds and 1,075 eggs in a bid to stop the H5N1 outbreak there.

The Kelantan state government declared the outbreak a ‘state disaster’ on March 15.

Meanwhile Dr Jerip said the ministry is very concerned about cleanliness and disposal of food waste at eateries.

He called on the public to report errant operators to local councils and the Health Department.

Dr Jerip said recent case of rats eating bee hoon at a food outlet was very “disturbing”, and stressed that the Health Department’s enforcement unit is monitoring food premises.

“We just had a meeting yesterday (Monday) on food safety, basically not just covering school canteens, but looking into food safety within the whole food supply chain, before it goes down to consumers.

“We are now concentrating on food stalls to ensure the premises and food preparation are clean and that disposal of food waste is in strict accordance with the regulations of local authorities,” he stressed.

He noticed that many food outlets in the state fail to meet the standards of cleanliness required.

“Many of our food outlets are not up to standard like toilets, floors and food preparation area, and the worst part is waste disposal which results in flies coming in and becoming a place for rats,” he said.

Regarding claims of sweets and chewing gum containing toxic substances being sold in school canteens, Dr Jerip said the ministry had sent the Food and Safety Department to check.

“Again, I think this is more from Peninsular Malaysia. At this point of time we have not found it yet in the state, but we will monitor to ensure it is not happening,” he said, adding the Health Department would screen products for toxic substances.

Zoonotic Bird Flu News - from 21 Mar 2017



 China confirms high-path H7N9 in market poultry [CIDRAP News, 21 Feb 2017]

by Lisa Schnirring

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Signaling a shift in the H7N9 avian influenza away from the low-pathogenic strain, China's agriculture ministry said the highly pathogenic form of the virus has been detected at live-bird markets in Guangdong province for the first time.

Elsewhere in the world, avian flu outbreaks continued to exact a heavy toll on European poultry, with Bulgaria and France reporting large culls, and Nigeria reported more highly pathogenic H5N1 outbreaks, according to a news report and the latest updates from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

High-path H7N9 in China

China's detection of highly pathogenic H7N9 in poultry markets was noted in a Feb 18 report to the OIE that appeared on the group's Web site today. Since it was first detected in early 2013, the novel virus has circulated in poultry as a low-pathogenic strain, which has made it difficult for animal health officials to identify outbreaks. Often, human illnesses have been sentinels that the virus is present in local poultry, especially at live-bird markets.

However, over the weekend the Guangdong province Center for Disease Control said two recent samples in humans showed mutations that suggest H7N9 may be becoming more pathogenic in birds.

The announcement was followed by a report from Taiwanese health officials, who found similar changes in a virus sample from an imported human H7N9 case, as well as a mutation in the neuraminidase protein linked to oseltamivir (Tamiflu) resistance.

In today's OIE report, China's agriculture ministry said the market birds in Guangdong province had subclinical infection. Samples from the birds sent to the national avian influenza reference lab by Guangdong officials were positive for highly pathogenic H7N9.

Authorities have closed the affected live-poultry markets and have stepped up surveillance throughout Guangdong province.

Bulgaria H5 outbreaks strike poultry, other birds

Meanwhile, Bulgaria reported a handful of highly pathogenic H5 outbreaks in January and February, suspected to be part of wider H5N8 activity across Europe over the past few months. Today in a report to the OIE the country's agriculture ministry confirmed 57 more outbreaks, mostly on farms but also involving backyard poultry and wild birds.

The latest outbreaks began between Dec 20 and Feb 8, with most of the farm events located in the central, southern, and western part of the country and many of the wild bird detections in the east along the Black Sea coast. Affected locations include 37 poultry farms, 8 backyard poultry holdings, 6 nature parks, 5 other locations where wild birds were found dead, and a zoo in Sofia, Bulgaria's capital.

All told, the virus killed 9,438 poultry, and 548,587 were destroyed to curb the spread of the virus. Wild bird deaths mainly affected swans, but other species included a buzzard, geese, and sparrows.

In France, government officials have ordered the culling of all 600,000 remaining ducks in the hard-hit Landes department in the country's southwest, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported today. Authorities have already culled 1.9 million ducks and geese, and avian flu outbreaks have killed another 1.3 million.

France has been battling outbreaks of H5N8, along with other strains, since November. The area targeted for preemptive culling produces 25% of France's foie gras. The same region was hit by similar outbreaks in the winter of 2015-16.

In other European developments, based on the latest OIE reports:

• Germany reported 23 more H5N8 outbreaks, mainly involving wild birds, but 3 of the locations were poultry farms, 3 were backyard holdings, and 1 was a zoo in the city of Stettfeld in Bavaria state. The outbreaks began from Feb 7 to Feb 20 and affected locations throughout a large portion of Germany. The virus killed 631 poultry and led to the stamping out of 138,142 more.

• Spain reported detecting H5N8 in a white stork found dead on Feb 20 at a nature park in Catalonia in the east.

H5N1 in Nigeria

Nigeria confirmed eight more highly pathogenic H5N1 outbreaks in poultry, according to two reports today from the OIE. One detailed an outbreak at a broiler farm in Edo state in the south that began on Feb 10, killing 10 of 8,100 susceptible birds.

The second report described seven farm outbreaks that began between Feb 8 and Feb 15, mainly on farms housing layers and pullets in Kaduna and Plateau states in central Nigeria.

Combined, the virus killed 2,300 of 50,683 susceptible birds. Authorities culled the remaining birds as part of the outbreak response.



 New A/H5N6 avian flu outbreak spotted in Quang Tri [VietNamNet Bridge, 21 Mar 2017]

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Handling the infected poultry farm of Vo Thanh Trung in Ha Tinh

An outbreak of A/H5N6 virus has been detected in the central province of Quang Tri, according to the Department of Animal Health under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on March 20.

The Department of Health Regional Office III reported that the A/H5N6 avian flu was found at a household farm from March 9-17, leading to the culling of 200 sick and dead fowls in Nai Cuu hamlet, Trieu Ai commune, Trieu Phong district. The fowls haven’t been vaccinated.

So far, Vietnam has recorded four A/H5N1 outbreaks in nine households in four provinces and two A/H5N6 outbreaks in two provinces in the last 21 days.

One A/H5N1 outbreak was found in a household in An Thanh commune, Ben Cau district, the southern province of Tay Ninh with 500 sick, dead birds culled. Five others were detected in Hoa Long commune, Bac Ninh city, the northern province of Bac Ninh with 6,100 sick and dead fowls culled.

The northern province of Cao Bang has reported one A/H5N1 infection in Tra Linh district with 1,360 sick and dead fowls and an A/H5N6 outbreak in Cao Bang city with 150 sick fowls killed.

The central province of Ha Tinh has one A/H5N1 infection in a household in Ky Bac commune, Ky Anh district, in which 520 birds were culled.

According to the Department, Vietnam is at high risks of infection of new avian flu virus strains, such as A/H7N9, A/H5N2, and A/H5N8 via illegal transport and consumption of poultry, particularly in the northern border provinces.

The agency urged all localities to proactively prevent and control poultry flu virus and strengthen their supervision and punishment over poultry smuggling while monitoring their local community to promptly detect and handle any emerging outbreaks.



 Iowa prepares for possible return of bird flu [Wallace's Farmer, 21 Mar 2017]

By Rod Swoboda 1

Poultry farmers are on alert following recent confirmation of the disease in Wisconsin and Tennessee.

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Are Iowa poultry producers vulnerable to an outbreak of avian influenza? This disease, known as bird flu, devastated Iowa’s egg-laying chicken flocks and its turkey farms two years ago.

Although it hasn’t reappeared in Iowa yet, bird flu has shown up in some flocks in Tennessee and Wisconsin in March.

Answering the question about Iowa’s vulnerability, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey highlights the continued biosecurity efforts by Iowa turkey, egg and broiler farmers and the preparations undertaken on the state and federal level following confirmation of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Tennessee and low pathogenic avian influenza in both Tennessee and Wisconsin in the past week.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus strains are extremely infectious, often fatal to domestic poultry, and can spread rapidly from flock to flock. Low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) virus strains occur naturally in wild migratory waterfowl and shorebirds

without causing illness. LPAI can occur in domestic poultry, with little or no signs of illness.

Northey points out, “Iowa saw firsthand the devastating impact of avian influenza in 2015, and in response, our poultry farmers have made significant investments and an ongoing commitment of increased biosecurity efforts to keep their chickens, turkeys and other birds healthy. We have also worked to learn from the 2015 outbreak to improve the response from both the state and federal government.”

Biosecurity important for farmers

Since the 2015 outbreak, Iowa poultry farmers have updated their biosecurity measures and made significant investments to help prevent the disease from getting on their farms, notes Northey. They focus every day on biosecurity, recognizing the potential that avian influenza and other diseases are always a risk.

All poultry farms need to have a biosecurity plan to qualify for USDA indemnification. It is also recommended all livestock premises that have one or more animals should obtain an official premises identification number, which may be obtained for free by contacting the Iowa Department of Ag and Land Stewardship (IDALS). Information on how to obtain premise identification is online at iowaagriculture.gov/animalIndustry/premiseIdentificationProgram.asp or by calling IDALS at 888-778-7675.

Iowa's egg and turkey companies have implemented company-wide biosecurity plans. The Center for Food Security and Public Health, Iowa State University Extension and ISU College of Veterinary Medicine have produced numerous materials to help farmers update biosecurity measures on farms. More information about their suggestions is at poultrybiosecurity.org.

State and federal preparations

In addition to the work by poultry farmers, state and federal partners have taken numerous steps to learn from the 2015 bird flu outbreak and prepare for any future outbreaks, says Northey.

The Iowa response to avian influenza operates under a unified command involving IDALS and the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Veterinary Services. “We also work closely with partners in the poultry industry, as well as other state agencies,” he says, “including the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Iowa Department of Public Health, and Iowa Department of Natural Resources.”


No guarantee it won’t hit Iowa again

“Everyone is rechecking their biosecurity plans,” notes Northey. “There is no guarantee to prevent this virus from getting into Iowa. Wild birds and waterfowl can carry it, and Iowa is in the path on the Mississippi Flyway for migrating ducks and geese. Everyone is concerned as producers continue the biosecurity plans they have in place. We are very hopeful we will be able to avoid a major outbreak of bird flu occurring in Iowa again. These new, recent outbreaks in Tennessee and Wisconsin re-emphasize the need for biosecurity.”



 Alabama Investigates a Poultry Bird Flu Scare [The Public Slate, 21 Mar 2017]

By Carol Ruth Weber
Edited by Cathy Milne

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Alabama sees a bird flu scare affecting its huge poultry revenue. A stop movement order was issued for certain poultry on Monday, March 14, 2017, as investigations on three North Alabama premises continued in search of avian influenza.

Alabama Stop Poultry Movement Order Aims to Protect

After two state officials, Veterinarian, Dr. Tony Frazier, and Commissioner, John McMillan, consulted, the stop movement order for certain poultry was announced. Frazier particularly noted that with the critical importance of the health of fowl, they have found that the order will be the best way to “implement bio-safety for all poultry in our state.” In accordance, the doctor implored owners of poultry of the necessity to be on alert regarding biological security.

As the Department of Agriculture and Industries test flocks on the three separate premises, the Alabama investigation into the bird flu scare continues. The department takes seriously its obligation to protect. Included in the inspections, are flocks of birds from backyards, exhibitions, shows, and commercial manufacturers. In keeping with the investigations, the department has found that the stop movement order is necessary for the successfulness of keeping all safe and preventing an epidemic.

The Alabama’s HPAI Preparedness and Response Plan routinely surveys for safety in bio-safety.

The most recent findings come because of regular investigations. Consequently, a flock of chickens, from a Lauderdale County breeder, is being looked at, along with a flock of birds in a backyard located in Madison County. These inquiries come following the collection of suspect samples from the Jackson County TaCo-Bet Trade Day flea market, on Sunday, March 12.

Reported results on Thursday, from the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, indicated that the guinea fowl sample from the flea market birds showed to be positive. The test results indicate low pathogenic H7N9 avian influenza. Subsequently, Alabama authorities have depopulated all suspect poultry, along with quarantining the site of origin, as they continue observations.

Alabama Believes Bird Flu Cases Not Highly Dangerous

Authorities are stating that they do not see the found cases to be deadly, nor disease causing since there were no outwardly signs of birds showing illness. In keeping with due diligence, the experts do see the need to continue with investigations of farms nearby, to assure safety.

It is important to note; there is no risk to food supply since none of the affected poultry found entered the retail food chain, as the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries explicitly stated.

With the ongoing investigation in Alabama of the poultry bird flu scare, people should be aware that risks to humans’ catching the avian influenza are quite small. The H7 bird flu is known to be a virus that generally only is distributed from bird to bird. Unless in direct interaction with sick birds, it is highly unlikely that humans will be infected, reports various sources.

Alabama Bird Flu Scare Affecting Shipments

As the Alabama investigation of the poultry for bird flu scare carries on, poultry shipments from the state were limited by U.S. partners in trading on Friday. After a Thursday press release, by State of Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, reported that a sample collected tested positive, three countries have restrained shipments of the birds.

The European Union, Kazakhstan, and French Polynesia have limited taking any shipments of poultry from any of the affected Alabama counties. Correspondingly, the European country of Belarus has ordered a stop on receiving any poultry from the entire state.

Poultry is a huge business in Alabama, and an occurrence of a health problem could have far-reaching consequences. The state’s poultry industry produces an annual income of approximately $15 billion and provides jobs to over 86,000 people.

Amy Belcher, an Agriculture Department spokeswoman, has stated that the issued stop movement order should not affect the commercial poultry industry. Evidently, the ban is aimed at hobbyists and backyard farmers only. Specifically, Belcher noted that the commercial farms are excluded, since, with regularly deemed testing of their birds, all poultry is considered free of disease before being shipped.

Sources:
State of Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries: Stop Movement Order Issued on Certain Poultry in Alabama
State of Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries: Update on Premises Under Investigation for Avian Influenza in Alabama
U.S. News: Alabama Waits for U.S. Verdict on Bird Flu; Importers Limit Trade
U.S. News: Ag Says Commercial Farms Unaffected by Alabama Poultry Order



 Second flock tests positive for HPAI here [Elk Valley Times, 21 Mar 2017]

The state veterinarian confirmed that a strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has sickened a second commercial chicken breeder flock within the existing controlled quarantined zone in Lincoln County.

On Tuesday, samples taken from the flock tested positive for avian influenza. Following federal laboratory confirmation of H7N9 HPAI, officials began depopulation of the affected premises.

This particular strain of avian influenza is the same that affected a commercial chicken flock earlier this month here. The two premises are less than two miles apart. Due to that close proximity, operators at the second premises were closely monitoring and regularly testing poultry for signs of avian influenza. The swift detection enabled immediate response, officials said.

“Wild birds can carry this strain of avian influenza,” State Veterinarian Dr. Charles Hatcher said. “Given the close proximity of the two premises, this is not unexpected. We will continue to execute our plan, working quickly to prevent the virus from spreading further.”

The first confirmed detection of H7N9 HPAI occurred in a commercial poultry flock in Lincoln County on March 4. Just four days later, on March 8, a commercial poultry flock in Giles County tested positive for H7N9 low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI). Due to the contagious nature of avian influenza and its threat to domesticated poultry, the best way to contain the virus is to depopulate affected flocks and then disinfect affected premises.

In neighboring Alabama, testing confirmed that a sample collected from a guinea fowl at the TaCo-Bet Trade Day flea market in Scottsboro was positive for LPAI. That was one Thursday.

Testing is still ongoing of two poultry flocks in northern Alabama – a commercial breeder flock in Lauderdale County and a backyard flock in Madison County, both believed to be LPAI, according to the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, because neither showed signs of illness.

Neither HPAI nor LPAI pose a risk to the food supply. No affected animals entered the food chain. Furthermore, the Tennessee Department of Health confirms that the risk of a human becoming ill with avian influenza during poultry illness incidents is very low. This virus is not the same as the China H7N9 virus affecting Asia and is genetically distinct.

The primary difference between LPAI and HPAI is mortality rate in domesticated poultry. A slight change to the viral structure can make a virus deadly for birds. Avian influenza virus strains often occur naturally in wild migratory birds without causing illness in those birds. With LPAI, domesticated chickens and turkeys may show little or no signs of illness. However, HPAI is often fatal for domesticated poultry.

State and federal officials continue to monitor and test poultry located in the areas immediately surrounding the three affected premises here in Middle Tennessee. No other flocks have shown signs of illness, said the state.

The state veterinarian has issued a poultry health advisory for Tennessee and recommends the following:

• Closely observe your poultry flock.
• Report a sudden increase in the number of sick birds or bird deaths to the state veterinarian’s office at 615- 837-5120 and/or USDA at 1-866-536-7593.
• Avoid transporting or commingling birds.
• Avoid poultry exhibitions, shows or sales.
• Prevent contact with wild birds.
• Practice good biosecurity with your poultry.
• Enroll in the National Poultry Improvement Plan.
• Follow Tennessee’s avian influenza updates and access resources for producers and consumers.

The state veterinarian and staff are focused on animal health and disease prevention. Each year, the Kord Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory tests approximately 22,000 samples from poultry for avian influenza. Since March 3, the lab has tested more than 1,500 samples.



 Breakthrough in H7N9 study a boost for bird flu drug research in Hong Kong [South China Morning Post, 21 Mar 2017]

by Ng Kang-chung
Gene mutations found to be behind the rise of the infectious strain

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A team of researchers at the University of Hong Kong has cracked the mystery behind how the deadly H7N9 virus has attained a higher ability to infect humans while also being contagious among avian species, placing the city at the forefront of bird flu drug development.

Scientists analysed the DNA of H7N9 virus strains collected since the 2013 outbreak, and identified a gene mutation that allowed it to adapt to human cells.

The research, headed by Professor Chen Honglin of the university’s State Key Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases, is published today in the international scientific journal Nature Communications.

Bird flu affecting half of China: ‘controllable’ but may spread further☞ Bird flu affecting half of China 

Chen said the findings could “help monitor the emergence and transmission of the bird flu virus in humans and prevent human-to-human infection, as well as provide a new target for antivirus drug development”.

The first confirmed infections of the new H7N9 strain of bird flu were reported on mainland China in March 2013. It began to spread across the country and even overseas.

A latest wave surfaced in mainland China in October and Hong Kong has recorded five imported cases so far.

As of Saturday, there were a total of 1,329 confirmed human H7N9 cases around the world since the 2013 outbreak, claiming at least 492 lives.

Most of the cases were from mainland China, while Hong Kong registered 21 and 10 other incidents were distributed across Taiwan, Canada, Macau, and Malaysia, according to latest figures in the weekly avian influenza report by the Centre for Health Protection.

Bird flu puts Hongkonger, 76, in critical condition ☞ H7N9 avian flu 

The HKU study found that a gene mutation with the H9N2 strain occurred in the 2013 H7N9 virus, combining with genes from other viruses carried by wild birds, to evolve into the current H7N9 strain that can infect humans.

Chen said that it was rare for avian viruses to be transmitted to humans, but the mutation in this case was particularly aggressive and adaptable.

He added there was no evidence however that this could result in higher risks of infection between humans. The unique mutation has also not been detected in other avian viruses.

Signs and symptoms of H7N9 infection in people mainly start with a fever and cough. In some cases, patients can suffer from severe pneumonia, septic shock and multi-organ failure, leading to death.

Chen warned that as long as people were exposed to infected birds or contaminated environments, more illnesses could be expected.

He said: “There is currently no publicly available vaccine to protect against the H7N9 virus infection. One has to keep good personal hygiene habits and stay away from high-risk places like wet markets.”

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as:
BIRD FLU STUDY RESULT BOOSTS DRUG RESEARCH



 Second Tyson Breeder Farm Flock Tests Positive For Bird Flu [5newsonline.com, 21 Mar 2017]

BY SHAWNYA MEYERS

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LINCOLN COUNTY, Tenn. (KFSM) — A second Tennessee chicken farm that has a contract with Tyson Foods has tested positive for avian influenza.

The farm is located in Lincoln County, Tennessee, according to a Tyson press release on
Thursday (March 16). This is the same county where another breeder farm, also contracted with Tyson, tested positive for the bird flu on March 4.

Tyson is working with the U.S. and Tennessee departments of agriculture to contain the flu, and will euthanize the flock of 55,000 chickens, according to a USDA news release. The USDA quarantined the property and all poultry farms within about a 6-mile radius will be tested for the flu.

Tyson will not transport or use any flocks from the area unless they test negative for the flu, the release states. The company does not expect the flu to impact its production.

This strain of avian flu, H7N9, does not affect humans. However, flocks affected by the highly contagious poultry disease have several illnesses and higher mortality rates.



 Tiny genetic change lets bird flu leap to humans [BBC News, 21 Mar 2017]

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At least six provinces have reported human cases of H7N9 influenza this year, according to Chinese state media

A change in just a single genetic "letter" of the flu virus allows bird flu to pass to humans, according to scientists.

Monitoring birds for viruses that carry the change could provide early warning of risk to people, they say.

Researchers at the University of Hong Kong studied a strain of bird flu that has caused human cases in China for several years.

Birds carry many flu viruses, but only a few strains can cause human disease.

H7N9 is a strain of bird flu that has caused more than 1,000 infections in people in China, according to the World Health Organization.

Most cases are linked to contact with infected poultry or live poultry markets.

The change in a single nucleotide (a building block of RNA) allows the H7N9 virus to infect human cells as well as birds, say Prof Honglin Chen and colleagues.

They say there is "strong interest in understanding the mechanism underpinning the ability of this virus to cause human infections and identification of residues that support replication in mammalians cells is important for surveillance of circulating strains."

Flare-up

Dr Derek Gatherer, an expert on viruses at Lancaster University, UK, says more surveillance of bird flu viruses is needed.

"The recent flare-up of H7N9 bird flu in China has been the cause of some concern this winter, and the demonstration that the new replicative efficiency mutation is present in this strain is not good news," he told BBC News.

"Also, the observation that this mutation has been present in other bird flu subtypes like H9N2 and spreading slowly for over 15 years shows that H7N9 isn't the only kind of bird flu that is potentially a pandemic risk for humans.

"We need to maintain a broader surveillance of bird flu to identify which strains have this mutation."

The research, published in the journal, Nature Communications, will help scientists understand more about how bird flu viruses adapt to infect humans.



 Additional flocks test positive for avian flu [WIAT 42, 21 Mar 2017]

by JJ Vincent

Vincent.jpg


PICKENS COUNTY, Ala. (WZDX) — The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industry (ADAI) has confirmed that two flocks hundreds of miles apart have tested positive for low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI).

The ADAI stresses that this suspected strain of avian influenza does not pose a risk to the food supply and no affected animals entered the food chain.

This is a different strain than the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus recently found in Tennessee.

The virus was found in the Pickens County flock during a routine inspection. Samples collected tested positive at the Alabama state lab in Auburn and were confirmed at the USDA National lab (NVSL) in Iowa. This flock is under quarantine.

The NVSL also confirmed a positive result for a Madison County backyard flock.

Surveillance zones are in place surrounding the locations in Pickens and Madison Counties.

The official Order Prohibiting Poultry Exhibitions and the Assembling of Poultry to Be Sold put in place on March 14th remains in effect. The order prohibits “all poultry exhibitions, sales at regional and county fairs, festivals, swap meets, live bird markets, flea markets and auctions. The order also prohibits the concentration, collection, or assembly of poultry of all types, including wild waterfowl from one or more premises for purposes of sale.”

Dr. Frazier says, ““The health of our poultry is critically important at this time,” said Dr. Frazier.

“With confirmed cases of low pathogenic avian influenza in Alabama in both commercial and backyard flocks, the order reducing the assembly and commingling of poultry is the most effective way to practice strict biosecurity measures in our state.”

Strict biosecurity measure include:
• Isolating poultry from other animals;
• Wearing clothing designated for use only at the poultry house;
• Minimizing access to people and unsanitized equipment;
• Keeping the area around the poultry buildings clean and uninviting to wild birds and animals;
• Sanitizing the facility between flocks;
• Cleaning equipment entering and leaving the farm;
• Having an all-in, all-out policy regarding the placement and removal of the poultry;
• Properly disposing of bedding material and mortalities;
• Avoiding contact with migratory waterfowl.

Dr. Frazier reminds all poultry owners and producers to strictly adhere to the biosecurity guidelines mentioned above. During this time, backyard flock owners should not move birds offsite or introduce new birds.

The ADAI Poultry Division is available to answer any questions concerning movement of poultry and should be notified at 334-240-6584 and/or USDA at 1-866-536-7593 if birds show unusual signs of disease (flu-like symptoms) or flocks experience unexplained mortalities.

The ADAI will maintain updates of suspected cases on avian influenza on their website at www.agi.alabama.gov.

See the Alabama Extension Service’s updated fact sheet on avian influenza here☞ The Facts - March 21, 2017.



 ALABAMA POULTRY FLOCKS TEST POSITIVE FOR BIRD FLU [WCBI, 21 Mar 2017]

by Brittany Oliver

Montgomery, Ala. (PRESS RELEASE) – State Veterinarian, Dr. Tony Frazier, confirms that a flock of chickens at a commercial poultry breeding operation located in Pickens County and a backyard flock located in Madison County have both tested positive for low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI).

During routine screening, a commercial company collected samples from their Pickens County flock and submitted them to the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries State Diagnostic Laboratory located in Auburn, Alabama. These samples, suspected positive for avian influenza, were forwarded to the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa. NVSL confirmed the commercial flock is positive for LPAI. This commercial flock has been placed under quarantine. While this is different from the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus that has been found recently in the United States, control measures are under way as a precautionary measure.

In addition to the suspected case in Pickens County, a backyard flock located in Madison County has also been confirmed positive for low pathogenic H7N9 avian influenza (LPAI) by NVSL. Surveillance zones have been put in place surrounding the locations in both Pickens and Madison counties.

This suspected strain of avian influenza does not pose a risk to the food supply and no affected animals entered the food chain.

On Tuesday, March 14, 2017, Dr. Tony Frazier issued an official Order Prohibiting Poultry Exhibitions and the Assembling of Poultry to Be Sold. The order prohibits: all poultry exhibitions, sales at regional and county fairs, festivals, swap meets, live bird markets, flea markets and auctions. The order also prohibits the concentration, collection, or assembly of poultry of all types, including wild waterfowl from one or more premises for purposes of sale. This order remains in effect. Shipments of eggs or baby chicks from National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) approved facilities are not affected by this order.

“The health of our poultry is critically important at this time,” said Dr. Frazier. “With confirmed cases of low pathogenic avian influenza in Alabama in both commercial and backyard flocks, the order reducing the assembly and commingling of poultry is the most effective way to practice strict biosecurity measures in our state.”

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) continues to work closely with the ADAI on a joint incident response. The U.S. has the strongest avian influenza surveillance program in the world and USDA is working with its partners to actively look for the disease in commercial poultry operations, backyard flocks, livebird markets and in migratory wild waterfowl populations.

“The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries’ staff is working diligently to defend the health of poultry in our state,” said Commissioner John McMillan. “We are committed to protecting the livelihoods of Alabama farmers.”

Dr. Frazier reminds poultry producers and backyard flock owners to observe their birds closely and to be vigilant about practicing strict biosecurity measures. These include:
• Isolating poultry from other animals;
• Wearing clothing designated for use only at the poultry house;
• Minimizing access to people and unsanitized equipment;
• Keeping the area around the poultry buildings clean and uninviting to wild birds and animals;
• Sanitizing the facility between flocks;
• Cleaning equipment entering and leaving the farm;
• Having an all-in, all-out policy regarding the placement and removal of the poultry;
• Properly disposing of bedding material and mortalities;
• Avoiding contact with migratory waterfowl.

Dr. Frazier reminds all poultry owners and producers to strictly adhere to the biosecurity guidelines mentioned above. During this time, backyard flock owners should refrain from moving birds offsite or introducing new birds. The ADAI Poultry Division is available to answer any questions concerning movement of poultry and should be notified at 334-240-6584 and/or USDA at 1-866-536-7593 if birds show unusual signs of disease (flu-like symptoms) or flocks experience unexplained mortalities.

The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries will maintain updates of suspected cases of avian influenza on our website: www.agi.alabama.gov.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System has created a website to assist backyard flock owners with maintaining healthy birds and to provide answers for avian influenza control. It can be found at www.AlabamaAvianInfluenza.com.



 Bird flu confirmed in 2 poultry flocks in north Alabama [The Seattle Times, 21 Mar 2017]

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama officials have confirmed bird flu in two poultry flocks, just a week after three commercial breeders had to kill their chickens across the state line in Tennessee.
The state veterinarian announced that chickens are under quarantine after testing positive for the disease at a commercial breeding operation in Pickens County near the Mississippi line.

Dr. Tony Frazier’s statement says the disease also was found in a backyard flock in Madison County, near the Tennessee line.

Agriculture officials say this strain of avian flu poses no risk to humans and has not entered the food chain.

The Alabama Poultry and Egg Association says poultry is Alabama’s largest agriculture sector, generating about $15 billion in annual revenues and employing more than 86,000 people.



 Pickens County flock tests positive for bird flu [AL.com, 21 Mar 2017]

By William Thornton

22301151-mmmain-.jpg


In a statement from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, State Veterinarian Tony Frazier said a flock of chickens at a Pickens County commercial poultry breeding operation, and a backyard flock located in Madison County, have both tested positive for low pathogenic avian influenza, a less serious strain.

Last week, a sample collected from a guinea fowl at the TaCo-Bet Trade Day flea market in Scottsboro also tested positive for low pathogenic H7N9 avian influenza.

The commercial company owning the Pickens County flock, which was not publicly identified, collected samples and submitted them to the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries State Diagnostic Laboratory in Auburn. The commercial flock was also placed under quarantine.

Those samples, suspected positive for avian influenza, were sent on to the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. Even though these are the less dangerous strains of bird flu, officials said control measures are being implemented as a precautionary measure.

Surveillance zones have been put in place surrounding the locations in both Pickens and Madison counties.

Officials say this suspected strain of avian influenza does not pose a risk to the food supply and no affected animals have entered the food chain.

Alabama poultry is still under a "stop movement" order to prevent the possible spread of bird flu, which was suspected in three counties last week. A "stop movement" is a ban on bringing chickens or any type of birds together for exhibition or sale, including at regional and county fairs, festivals, swap meets, live bird markets, auctions and flea markets.

Officials are still awaiting results for tests at a breeder farm in Lauderdale County run by Aviagen, a large poultry producer with U.S. offices in Huntsville.

In Lauderdale County, 15,000 chickens were killed to prevent the spread of bird flu. The entire backyard flock in Madison County was also depopulated at the owner's request.

On Thursday, a commercial chicken breeding operation in Lincoln County, Tenn., tested positive for avian influenza, the third case in that state in two weeks.

Avian influenza is a catch-all phrase for respiratory viruses occurring naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide which can infect poultry and other bird and animal species, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Neither strain reported in the U.S. this year is the same as the bird flu currently infecting China, where 161 people have died since October 2016. Those people were mostly exposed at outdoor poultry markets, according to the CDC.



 Minnesota Poultry Industry Reacts to 2nd High Path Avian Influenza Case in Tennessee [WNAX, 21 Mar 2017]

Last week the USDA confirmed highly pathogenic avian influenza in a second commercial flock in Tennessee. The flock of 55,000 chickens has been depopulated and surveillance and testing for the disease is ongoing. Minnesota Turkey Growers and Chicken Association Executive Director Steve Olson is not surprised by this latest case. He notes Minnesota Senator Al Franken had written President Trump expressing his concern about further spread of bird flu.

He says Minnesota’s poultry growers have done a great job in responding to bird flu in the past and enhanced their biosecurity efforts. Olson says it’s good Tennessee state officials have taken the lead to help poultry producers with any HPAI concerns.

Olson says the latest flocks in Tennessee that contracted the virus were older birds.

Olson says it’s important that producers and state and federal officials remain diligent in battling against any future highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreaks.



 Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza Detected In Western Kentucky [Continuous News and Storm Tracker Weather, 21 Mar 2017]

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FRANKFORT, Ky (LEX 18) The Kentucky Department of Agriculture announced Monday that a case of low pathogenic avian influenza has been detected in a commercial poultry flock in western Kentucky.

The National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa confirmed the presence of H7N9 low pathogenic avian influenza in samples taken from Christian County premises.

The press release from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture said that the virus exposure was initially detected by the Murray State University Breathitt Veterinary Center in Hopkinsville while conducting a routine pre-slaughter test last week.

Kentucky State Veterinarian Robert C. Stout said there were no clinical signs of disease in the birds. The affected premises is under quarantine. The flock of about 22,000 hens was depopulated as a precautionary measure, according to Dr. Stout.

“Dr. Stout and his staff have extensive experience and expertise in animal disease control and eradication,” Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said. “They have an excellent working relationship with the Kentucky Poultry Federation and the poultry industry. They are uniquely qualified to contain this outbreak so our domestic customers and international trading partners can remain confident in Kentucky poultry.”

Dr. Stout said that low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) may cause no disease or mild illness.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) can cause severe disease with high mortality. He said that the OSV and its partners in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) are conducting surveillance on flocks within a six-mile radius of the index farm.

The company operating the farm is conducting additional surveillance testing.

Dr. Stout encouraged poultry producers and all other bird owners to take biosecurity measures to prevent their birds from being infected with avian influenza or other bird diseases:

・Keep your distance – Isolate your birds from visitors and other birds.

・Keep it clean – Prevent germs from spreading by cleaning shoes, tools, and equipment.

・Don’t haul disease home – Clean vehicles and cages.

・Don’t borrow from your neighbor – Avoid sharing tools and equipment with neighbors.

・Know the signs – Watch for early signs to prevent the spread of disease.

・Report sick birds – Report unusual signs of disease or unexpected deaths to the Office of the Kentucky State Veterinarian at (502) 573-0282, option 3, or through USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website says that avian flu viruses do not normally infect humans.

For more biosecurity tips and other information about avian influenza, go to healthybirds.aphis.usda.gov. For more information about the Christian County investigation, contact Dr. Stout at (502) 782-5921.



 Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza Detected In Western Kentucky [Reuters, 21 Mar 2017]

France sees bird flu.jpg
French Agriculture minister and Government spokesperson Stephane Le Foll speaks during the questions to the government session at the National Assembly in Paris, France, November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

The spread of a severe bird flu virus that ravaged the duck industry in southwestern France since late last year has slowed in the past two weeks, suggesting the crisis could be ending, the farm minister said on Monday.

France, which has the largest poultry flock in Europe, has been among the countries most severely hit by the highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu virus that propagated in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

"Everything suggests that we will soon reach the end of this outbreak. The number of suspected cases is in sharp decline," French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll told reporters.

"We can see the end of this terrible tunnel in which we have been for four months," he said.

Some 465 outbreaks of H5N8 have been detected and 4 million poultry destroyed because of the virus, mainly in southwestern France, home to most foie gras producers.

The fast spread of bird flu has prompted the government to order a massive cull of ducks, higher security measures and the fallowing of farms in part of the southwest since January.

H5N8 detected in France is not transmissible by food and has never been found in humans. It is different than the H7N9 strain that has caused the death of over 160 people in China since late last year in the worst outbreak since 2009.

Chicken production, less exposed to H5N8, has resumed in some regions where the virus is considered to be under control and the area will be extended gradually to most of the southwest in coming weeks, Le Foll said.

Duck farmers will be able to resume production in restricted areas by the end of May at the latest, as initially planned, provided the situation remains stable.

Ducks and geese, mostly produced for their livers that are artificially swollen through force-feeding to make foie gras, are most exposed to the virus due to free-range rearing and transport of animals between farms.

Le Foll also promised to reimburse in due time farmers' lack of earnings when they culled their birds or halted production due to bird flu. He was answering growing criticism that delays in public aid had threatened many farmers' businesses.

Foie gras producers this month said the crisis would lead to a rise in prices of the delicacy and suggested a change in production methods to protect poultry flocks.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by Dale Hudson)



 Avian Flu Found in Western Ky Poultry Flock [WEKU 21 Mar 2017]

By STU JOHNSON

chicks WEKU.jpg
A case of low pathogenic Avian Flu has been found in a Western Kentucky commercial poultry flock.

Federal and state agriculture officials are confirming a case of low pathogenic Avian Flu in a western Kentucky commercial poultry flock. This type of influenza doesn't typically pose a fatal threat to chickens.

Kentucky State Veterinarian Robert Stout says the presence of low pathogenic avian influenza came from samples taken at a Christian County operation.

This poultry flu may cause no disease or mild illness. Highly pathogenic Avian Influenza can cause severe disease with high mortality.

Dr Stout says there were no clinical signs of disease in the Christian County birds. He says the affected premises is under quarantine and the flock of some 22,000 hens was depopulated as a precautionary measure.

A significant outbreak of highly pathogenic Avian Flu occurred in the U.S. about two years ago.

Zoonotic Bird Flu News - from 20 Mar 2017



 H7N9 analyses hint at genetic mutations, drug resistance [CIDRAP News, 20 Feb 2017]

by Lisa Schnirring

dna_test CIDRAP.jpg


In the latest H7N9 avian influenza developments, analysis of virus samples from China and Taiwan hint at mutations including resistance to the antiviral class of drugs known as neuraminidase inhibitors, and the World Health Organization (WHO) said today that the burgeoning number of cases this season now account for a third of all cases reported since the outbreak began in 2013.

Also, local officials reported three new cases in three Chinese provinces, signaling ongoing virus activity.

Scientists track pathogenicity, resistance mutations

Yesterday, Guangdong province's Center for Disease Control (Guangdong CDC) announced that two virus samples collected from humans show mutations that suggest H7N9 may be becoming more pathogenic in birds, according to an official statement translated and posted by Avian Flu Diary (AFD), an infectious disease news blog.

Authorities said an analysis of four samples from poultry in Guangdong province by agriculture colleagues had found similar changes in the virus and that the two groups would work together to monitor the virus.

H7N9 has been a low-pathogenic virus in poultry, which has made it difficult to track. Often, the virus isn't found in local poultry flocks until human illnesses in the area have been reported.

In a related development, Taiwan's CDC today, in an analysis of H7N9 from in imported case in January, found similar protein changes in the hemagglutinin (HA) protein that may make the virus more pathogenic in poultry, but it also said it found a mutation in the neuraminidase (NA) protein that may suggest resistance to antivirals such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza), which are neuraminidase inhibitors.

The statement from Taiwan CDC, also translated and posted by AFD, said the patient is a 69-year-old man from Guangdong province who is still hospitalized in critical condition. Officials said the mutation seen in an H7N9 sample from the man may have been a spontaneous mutation that occurred while he was undergoing treatment.

Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection (CHP) in a statement today acknowledged the genetic findings announced by Guangdong CDC and said it will continue to monitor virus activity, but so far its analysis of viruses from its recent imported H7N9 cases from the mainland have not found any significant changes or any sign of resistance to oseltamivir.

A Feb 10 update from the WHO said an analysis of 83 H7N9 samples collected since Oct 1 from the current fifth wave of infections found no evidence of changes that would make the virus more virulent or more adapted to mammals. The group, however, noted three contained mutations in the NA protein that suggested reduced sensitivity to neuraminidase inhibitors.

The WHO added that testing is under way to assess in vitro susceptibility to the drugs.

WHO update notes two new clusters

In its update today, the WHO said China notified it of 304 more cases between Jan 19 and Feb 14, bringing the total during this wave to at least 418, similar to the total reported last week in the latest update from Hong Kong. Though similar sudden increases have been seen in past seasons, the recent surge exceeds those of previous years and now accounts for one third of all human cases since H7N9's first detection in humans in early 2013.

So far epidemiologic and virologic evidence doesn't suggest that H7N9 has acquired the ability to spread more easily in humans, but the situation needs close monitoring, the agency said. It warned that more human cases are expected, given ongoing detection in poultry and their environments, and that sporadic cases could continue in previously unaffected areas of China, because of the silent circulation of the low-pathogenic virus in birds.

The most recent cases reported to the WHO are from 18 of China's provinces. The most-affected ones are Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Guangdong, Anhui, Jiangxi, Hunan, Fujian, and Hubei. For patients with known clinical presentations, two had mild symptoms, 82 had pneumonia (48 classified as severe), and 36 died.

Of the 304 patients, 144 (47%) had been exposed to poultry or live-poultry markets. Eleven had no clear exposure, and investigations are still under way for 149.

The WHO noted two clusters among the cases: a 22-year-old mother who took care of her 3-year-old daughter while the child was sick (both had been exposed to poultry) and a 43-year-old woman who took care of her 45-year-old sister while she was sick. Both of the women had likewise been exposed to poultry.

"While common exposure to poultry is likely, human-to-human transmission cannot be ruled out," the WHO said of the clusters.

New cases in 3 provinces
The newest cases reported from China were noted in today's CHP update and include patients in three different provinces.

One is a 45-year-old individual from Guizhou in the southwest who is being treated in Qiandongnan. In addition, Guangxi province in southern China reported a fatal infection in a 41-year-old woman in Nanning who worked as a poultry seller in a live market before she became ill.

The third patient is a 48-year-old woman in Shandong province in the east.

So far China has reported at least 422 cases in the fifth wave of H7N9 activity. Also, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan have reported a spate of cases imported from the mainland. The WHO today said the global total based on reports received since 2013 is 1,222 lab-confirmed cases.



 Veterinary groups address H7N9 poultry risk in China [CIDRAP, 20 Mar 2017]

by Lisa Schnirring

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Two key animal health groups recently weighed in on recent H7N9 avian flu developments and possible consequences of the detection of highly pathogenic viruses in China, warning that concerted efforts are needed to eliminate the disease in poultry and share the latest information.

In outbreak developments, Croatia reported its first highly pathogenic H5N5 outbreak in poultry, as Taiwan and Vietnam reported more H5N6 events, and several European countries reported more H5N8 in both wild birds and poultry.

H7N9 threat to humans, poultry

In a joint statement on Mar 17, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) said targeted efforts are needed to control H7N9 in Chinese poultry to protect people as well as the poultry trade.

Vincent Martin, DVM, PhD, the FAO's representative in China, said targeted surveillance is needed to detect the disease and clean affected farms and markets, intervening at critical points along the poultry chain, from farm to table. "There should be incentives for everybody involved in poultry production and marketing to enforce disease control."

Matthew Stone, BVSc, MVS, the OIE's deputy director general, credited China with quickly notifying the global community that it had recently detected a change from low to high pathogenicity. "Timely sharing of surveillance results and sequence information with the international community is crucial for pandemic preparedness," he said in the statement. The groups also emphasized the importance of China to share all information from ongoing and intensified surveillance activities.

Though the shift to high pathogenicity might make the disease easier to identify and control in poultry, it raises the risk of severe animal and economic losses for China's poultry sector, the groups noted. They said another concern is the possibility that H7N9 changes might affect the wild bird population, which could turn them into migratory carriers of the virus, possibly posing a threat to Europe, Africa, or the Americas.

Croatia reports H5N5 in poultry

Croatia's first H5N5 outbreaks in poultry occurred at four locations: two farms and two backyard holdings in Krapina-Zagorje County in the north near the border with Croatia, officials said in a Mar 17 report to the OIE. Croatia had previously reported H5N5 in a wild swan found dead in January.

The outbreak started Mar 8 at two neighboring locations, with increased mortality seen in poultry. A local veterinarian said there were two small ponds nearby where wild ducks gather.

After tests confirmed H5N5, authorities ordered control measures for 15 other holdings in the area on Mar 14, where birds at two of them tested positive for H5N5.

Among the four locations, the virus killed 42 of 65 susceptible birds.

H5N5 is a reassortment of H5N8 that was first reported by three European countries at the end of 2016. The virus has been found in 11 of the region's countries.

Vietnam reports more H5N6; Taiwan battles 3 strains

Vietnam and Taiwan both reported more H5N6 outbreaks, with the latter also confirming more detections of H5N8 and low-pathogenic H5N2, officials said in separate reports to the OIE.

The latest event in Vietnam involved backyard birds in Quang Tri province in the central part of the country. The virus killed 130 of 200 susceptible birds, and authorities culled the survivors.

Taiwan, after reporting its first H5N6 outbreak in the middle of February, reported one more, this time at a commercial duck farm in Hualien County on the east side of the island. The facility has been placed under quarantine, and all animals on the farm have been stamped out.

In related developments, Taiwan continues its battle against two other strains, with seven more H5N8 outbreaks and 22 more involving low-pathogenic H5N2, according to separate reports to the OIE. The H5N8 outbreaks involved commercial farms on the west side of the island, striking Chiayi, Pingtung, and Yunlin counties, plus the cities of Tainan and Kaohsiung. The start dates ranged from Feb 25 to Mar 6, with H5N8 affecting turkeys, native chickens, and ducks.
Among the seven outbreaks, the virus killed 5,147 of 69,250 birds.

All but 1 of the 22 low-pathogenic H5N2 outbreaks are on commercial farms on the west side of the island; the other is in the northeast. Taken together, the virus killed 21,592 of 242,300 birds, and authorities destroyed the remaining ones as part of response steps.

H5N8 in Europe

In France, where the foie gras production area in the southwest has been especially hit hard by outbreaks involving different strains, officials reported 11 more H5N8 outbreaks, nine at poultry farms and two in wild birds.

In the farm outbreaks, the virus struck farms in two departments: Landes and Pyrenees-Atlantiques. The events started from Mar 1 to Mar 9, killing 27 of 8,966 birds.

The same part of the country was also affected by low-pathogenic strains in an H5N2 outbreak that struck a duck farm in Pyrenees-Atlantiques department on Mar 9 and in an H5N2 outbreak and an H5N1 event detected at a duck farm on Mar 14 in Lot-et-Garonne department.

France's H5N8 detections in wild birds both occurred in the far northeast of the country, affecting three wild geese found dead earlier this month in Haut-Rhin and Bas-Rhin departments.

Four other European countries reported more H5N8 detections:

• Germany confirmed three more outbreaks, all of them striking turkey farms in Lower Saxony state in the northwest. The events began between Mar 11 and Mar 15, sickening 9,100 of 32,051 birds and killing 73 of them.

• Italy notified the OIE of one more outbreak, this time on a commercial game farm in Veneto region in the northeast. The event began on Mar 16, killing 5 of 180 birds.

• Lithuania noted one more detection involving a wild swan found dead on Mar 13 in Klaipeda County in the far eastern part of the country.

• Dutch officials reported three more outbreaks in wild birds found dead from Feb 7 to Mar 6 in two provinces, North Holland and Friesland.



 Asian flu strains can enter North America through Alaska, study finds [Phys.Org, 20 Mar 2017]

by Anne Trafton

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A new paper from an MIT-led team demonstrates that Alaska can offer a significant foothold for Asian flu viruses, enabling them to enter North America. Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

A new paper from an MIT-led team demonstrates that Alaska can offer a significant foothold for Asian flu viruses, enabling them to enter North America. The research also shows that the region serves as a fertile breeding ground for new flu strains.

In 2014 and 2015, an outbreak of H5N8, H5N1, and H5N2 influenza affected poultry farms in North America, resulting in the culling of nearly 50 million chickens and turkeys. The new study finds that an epidemic flu strain, which originated in Southeast Asia, was most likely carried into Alaska by wild migratory birds. In Alaska, the viruses mingled with local flu strains and eventually evolved into the deadly strains that spread south to poultry farms in Washington, Oregon, and California.

"We think there's strong evidence that those viruses moved through the Bering strait through wild bird populations and began a process of evolution that ended up with them infecting poultry populations and becoming a big agricultural issue," says Jonathan Runstadler, an assistant professor of biological engineering and comparative medicine at MIT and the senior author of the study.

The paper's lead author is MIT postdoc Nichola Hill. Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the J. Craig Venter Institute, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the University of California at Davis also contributed to the study.

Influenza migration

Influenza strains come in many subtypes, which are classified by the structure of two proteins (abbreviated H and N) found on the surface of their viral envelope. In 1997, an outbreak of H5N1 that began in birds infected 18 people in Hong Kong and killed six of them. The virus then re-emerged in southeast Asia in the early 2000s, killing many birds and causing small pockets of human disease.

Since then, H5N1 and other H5 strains have continued to circulate in wild bird populations, raising concerns that bird flu could spread again into poultry or into humans. Part of Runstadler's recent research has focused on trying to understand how these viruses evolve in wild bird populations, with a particular focus on Alaskan birds because many wild birds migrate from southeast Asia to Alaska.

Alaska hosts huge flocks of migratory waterbirds, such as ducks, geese, and gulls, which fly north from both Asia and southern regions of North America. "Water birds spread virus easily, and a lot of these birds migrate intercontinentally. They make a great host for influenza viruses," Hill says.

This intermingling of birds gives flu viruses a chance to undergo a process called genetic reassortment, which allows them to develop new traits such as the ability to infect a different host. Flu viruses have eight genetic segments that are independent and unattached, and when two different viruses infect the same host, they can swap segments.

"The virus then comes out of that cell with the mixture of the two viruses," Runstadler says.

"This reassortment seems to be a major mechanism by which the influenza virus can move between different hosts."

Runstadler and Hill have previously shown that reassortment occurs in wild birds in Alaska during the breeding season, and that the process occurs at an even greater frequency as the birds move south. This led them to hypothesize that Alaska could be the entry point for highly pathogenic H5 viruses from Asia, and that these viruses could diversify and spread south into the United States.

The researchers got the chance to test this hypothesis after the U.S. poultry outbreak began in late 2014. The MIT team and another group from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks and the USGS had taken taken flu samples from wild birds in 2014 as part of a larger project on flu virus evolution. After the poultry outbreak began, the researchers went back to their samples to try to determine whether they were predecessors to the viruses that caused the poultry sickness.

Analyzing these sequences and comparing them with viruses taken from birds infected at lower latitudes of North America revealed that the virus had come into Alaska from southeast Asia. Once the virus arrived in Alaska, it began swapping genes with less harmful flu viruses already present in the Alaskan wild bird population.

"As the highly pathogenic H5 virus entered into North America, along the way it reassorted with locally circulating, less pathogenic strains from North American wild birds," Hill says. "We've been able to understand the trajectory of how the virus moved in and reassorted by looking at the strains that these birds in Alaska were shedding."

This genetic reassortment allowed the flu strains to diversify in ways that made it easier for them to spread among the wild bird population and eventually infect poultry as the wild birds migrated south.

"This data is very important to our understanding of flu evolution and shows the importance of timely sampling in surveillance," says Ralph Tripp, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine, who was not involved in the research.

"We don't know enough"

The researchers say that the study highlights the need for surveillance of potentially dangerous flu strains that could enter through Alaska and spread south. Such strains could pose a threat to not only agricultural operations but also human heath, because viral reassortment can make it easier for the virus to spread among people.

"I think it's fair to say that the circulation of H5 viruses anywhere is cause for concern because of the fact that the influenza virus can do this reassortment," Runstadler says. "If one of these viruses that was circulating in North America, or one of the ones still circulating in Asia, happened to be able to infect a person who is also sick with a seasonal H1N1 virus, you'd have some concern that those viruses would reassort and you might get a novel virus produced that is able to transmit between humans and could be a public health risk."

The researchers also plan to investigate how human activities, such as urbanization and agriculture in Alaska and elsewhere in North America might influence the flu virus' ability to evolve and infect new hosts by changing the distribution and susceptibility of wild birds.

"Humans have used and altered landscapes that provide food sources for populations of birds, and affected migration patterns," Runstadler says. "We don't know enough about influenza virus to say what's really a risk and what's not. That's one reason why we do what we do, to try to figure that out better."

Explore further: Migration routes hold key to bird flu spread, global study finds☞ Migration routes 

More information: Nichola J. Hill et al. Reassortment of Influenza A Viruses in Wild Birds in Alaska before H5 Clade 2.3.4.4 Outbreaks, Emerging Infectious Diseases (2017). ☞ Nichola J. Hill et al  

This story is republished courtesy of MIT News (web.mit.edu/newsoffice/), a popular site that covers news about MIT research, innovation and teaching.



 Avian flu threat re-emerges as new outbreaks are reported in U.S. flocks [Penn State News, 21 Mar 2017]

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Poultry and animal disease experts in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences are urging commercial poultry producers and small-flock owners in Pennsylvania to ramp up their vigilance and biosecurity in the wake of recent outbreaks of avian influenza in several states.

In early March, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) announced that a commercial flock of breeder chickens in Tennessee tested positive for highly pathogenic avian flu, or HPAI. Since then, USDA-APHIS has revealed another case of the same H7N9 virus at a second Tennessee farm, and Alabama agriculture officials announced an outbreak of suspected low-pathogenic avian flu affecting three premises in that state.

In addition, low-pathogenic avian flu was reported in a Wisconsin turkey flock and a Kentucky broiler breeder flock, and routine surveillance has found the presence of low-pathogenic avian flu in wild waterfowl in various states.

The pathogenicity of a virus refers to its ability to produce disease. Some H5 or H7 viruses have the capacity to mutate into "high-path" strains under certain conditions, according to Eva Wallner-Pendleton, senior research associate and avian pathologist in Penn State's Animal Diagnostic Laboratory.

"Low-path AI viruses can go undiagnosed because they often produce very little illness or death," she said. "The time needed to mutate into high-path viruses varies considerably from weeks to months, or it can occur rapidly."

The strains involved in these recent outbreaks have not been shown to infect people and do not raise food-safety issues, she added. Proper processing, handling, and cooking of poultry and eggs will provide protection from viruses and bacteria, including avian influenza.

Infection with North American strains of low-pathogenic avian flu is a common natural occurrence in wild birds, such as ducks and geese, which usually show few or no symptoms, Wallner-Pendleton explained. "But if these strains get into a poultry flock, they can mutate and become highly pathogenic, causing significant mortality," she said.

She noted that poultry flocks infected with low-pathogenic H5 or H7 avian flu subtypes often will be culled to stop the spread of the virus and to keep it from becoming more virulent.

The recent Tennessee outbreak occurred within the Mississippi flyway, which is one of four paths taken by wild birds when migrating in the spring and fall in North America. During the 2014-15 outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N2 avian flu that led to the loss of about 50 million turkeys and laying hens in the Midwest, the Atlantic flyway — which includes Pennsylvania and connects with the Mississippi flyway — was the only migratory flyway not affected.

However, with birds co-mingling in warmer climates during the winter and the spring northward migration underway, the poultry industries in Pennsylvania and neighboring states are at heightened risk. Poultry production in the Keystone State has a farm-gate value of $1.4 billion, and the state ranks fourth nationally in egg production and 10th in turkey production. Lancaster County has more laying hens than any other single county in the United States.

"In Tennessee, one of the affected poultry houses was near a pond, which may have attracted wild waterfowl," Wallner-Pendleton said. "In cool, wet weather, bird droppings can contain viable virus for a long time, and the pathogen can be spread to poultry flocks on people's shoes or on vehicle tires and so forth. So a key biosecurity recommendation is to prevent any contact between waterfowl and domestic poultry and to take steps to ensure that the virus is not introduced into a poultry house on clothing or equipment."

Gregory Martin, a Penn State Extension poultry science educator based in Lancaster County, pointed out that the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture recommends that any poultry flocks kept outdoors be brought under cover during waterfowl migration periods.

"State and federal agriculture officials also strongly urge producers to develop an HPAI flock plan and augment it with a comprehensive biosecurity plan," Martin said. "These plans may be required for producers to receive indemnification for any losses resulting from an avian flu outbreak."

To assist producers in developing a biosecurity plan, Martin said, Penn State poultry scientists and veterinarians have developed a plan template that can be customized for various types of flocks. In addition, a video on how to create an HPAI farm plan can be found online.

Since the 2014-15 Midwest avian flu outbreak, Penn State also has played a key role on a state task force that has developed plans for how to prevent, respond to, and recover from any potential outbreak in Pennsylvania. The task force has addressed topics such as biosecurity; emergency management; depopulation and disposal of infected flocks; issues relevant to small or backyard flocks; and education for youth poultry exhibitors at county fairs and other shows.

Specific recommendations on biosecurity, information on how to recognize the symptoms of avian flu, and guidance on how to report suspected cases can be found on the Penn State Extension avian flu website☞ Poultry 



 Resurgent outbreak of avian influenza underscores need for control efforts at animal source [News-Medical.net, 20 Mar 2017]

A resurgent outbreak of a new strain of avian influenza that can be lethal for humans underscores the need for robust and rapid detection and response systems at animal source. This would reduce the risk associated with virus spread and impacts on public health, according to FAO and OIE.

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Human cases of the H7N9 virus, first detected in China four years ago, have suddenly increased since December 2016. It is estimated, that as of early March 2017, there have been more reported human cases of influenza A (H7N9) than those caused by other types of avian influenza viruses (H5N1, H5N6, etc.) combined, .

As during previous waves, most of the patients infected reported a history of visiting live bird markets or coming into contact with infected birds. Since 2013, China has invested heavily in surveillance of live bird markets and poultry farms. However the surveillance of this virus has proven particularly challenging as until recently it has shown no or few signs of disease in chickens.

“Considering the potential for mutation of avian influenza virus, constant surveillance by national Veterinary Services of the different strains circulating in animals in their country is essential to protect both animal and human health”, explains Dr Matthew Stone, Deputy Director General of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

“To protect human health and people’s livelihoods, it is essential to tackle the disease at its source in poultry: efforts need to target eliminating H7N9 from affected farms and markets,” said Dr Vincent Martin, FAO’s Representative in China. “Targeted surveillance to detect the disease and clean infected farms and live bird markets, intervening at critical points along the poultry value chain - from farm to table - is required. There should be incentives for everybody involved in poultry production and marketing to enforce disease control.”

Until recently, H7N9 has demonstrated low pathogenicity, meaning it may cause mild or no illnesses in poultry. New evidence from China’s Guangdong Province now indicates that H7N9, while retaining its capacity to also cause severe disease in humans, has shifted to high pathogenicity in poultry, a genetic change that can lead to high mortality for birds within 48 hours of infection. That may potentially make it easier to see when chickens are infected, facilitate introduction of control measures also at the farm level, but also raises the risk of severe animal and economic losses for those engaged in poultry production and sales.

“China has been quick to notify international organizations about the virus’ recent change from low to high pathogenicity in poultry. Given the continuous risk of virus change, inherent to all influenza viruses, timely sharing of surveillance results and sequence information with the international community is crucial for pandemic preparedness,” said Dr Stone.

The need for ongoing targeted and widespread monitoring and effective response to detections remains urgent to keep the virus from spreading beyond China’s Eastern and South-eastern regions, where it is now considered endemic. This strain of H7N9 virus has so far not been notified in poultry populations outside of China despite intensified surveillance in neighbouring countries and those at risk.

Neighbouring countries remain at high risk, and all those that have poultry trade connections – either formal or informal - to China. A further concern is the possibility that changes seen in the H7N9 virus may affect wild bird population, posing risks to their health or turn them into migratory carriers of the virus, expanding the risk of the virus spreading further as has been seen with other avian influenza strains in faraway Europe, Africa or the Americas.

In response to the latest surge of cases, China’s Ministry of Agriculture has ordered animal husbandry, veterinary and public health officers, as well as authorities in charge of industry and commerce, to take timely and closely coordinated actions so that H7N9 cases can be identified quickly and appropriate measures taken. Culling of affected flocks is required and increased hygiene at live-bird markets is being enforced. The Harbin Veterinary Research Institute, recognised by OIE and FAO as an international reference centre, which serves as the National Avian Influenza Research Laboratory and its countrywide laboratory network are closely monitoring for virus mutations and epidemic status.

Biosecurity measures and surveillance

While more than 1 200 human cases of H7N9 have been reported since 2013, there is no danger of catching the disease by eating chicken. Livelihoods reliant on poultry, however, are at serious risk due to the necessary prevention and control measures and losses are destined to increase, as chicken will be vulnerable to the emerging high-pathogenic strain.

China’s Ministry of Agriculture is calling once more for improved biosecurity in markets, forbidding birds from remaining overnight to avoid accumulation of virus, enforcing market rest days, closures and regular cleaning, which is essential in responding to the disease, especially in preventing human exposure.

With all the efforts taken by China and partners, there is a pressing need to understand why these measures have not worked as well as expected and to undertake more outreach efforts to work with the poultry industry to institute safer practices, farmer registries, hygienic market practices, targeted surveillance and timely reporting.

“Following a “One Health” approach, we need to understand the drivers of this disease and in devising appropriate control and preventive strategies and longer-term management programs”, said Dr Juan Lubroth, FAO Chief Veterinary Officer. “These must be tailored to meet the expectations of all stakeholders involved, such as farmers, traders, transporters, market operators, government and international agencies and the consumer.”

FAO and OIE emphasize the importance of making all information from ongoing and intensified surveillance activities in China available in a timely way. Such data are essential to the coordinated global effort to understand avian influenza in all its types, as well as to gauge H7N9’s potential to spread along different poultry value chains or through wild bird movement.

The two international organisations urge countries in the region to be vigilant for a potential incursion of the virus, in its low or highly pathogenic form, and are calling for urgent investment in surveillance and laboratory detection to safeguard trade, including across borders.

Source:
http://www.oie.int/en/for-the-media/press-releases/detail/article/reinforcing-control-efforts-amid-outbreak-of-avian-influenza-in-china/



 Spring Is The Season For Avian Influenza Infections Among Poultry [WisConText, 20 Mar 2017]

by Tim Jergenson & Joel McReynolds

Federal And State Officials Are Tracking Outbreaks Emerging In Tennessee And Wisconsin

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Scott Bauer/U.S. Department of Agriculture (CC BY 2.0)

Two years after an outbreak of avian influenza centered on the Upper Midwest infected birds at multiple poultry operations in Wisconsin, the disease may once again be posing a threat. A low pathogenic strain of avian influenza was detected on March 4, 2017 in a Barron County commercial turkey flock.

This infection in northwest Wisconsin comes after a highly pathogenic strain in a Tennessee commercial chicken flock was announced the same day.  A second flock of chickens at a Tennessee commercial poultry operation tested positive for avian influenza, though the state's officials said it is a low pathogenic strain. A third outbreak was subsequently detected in Tennessee, this one of the highly pathogenic variety, and officials in neighboring Alabama are investigating several cases detected in that state.

According to Darlene Konkle, Wisconsin's assistant state veterinarian with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, the low pathogenic H5N2 strain found in Barron County is not related to the H7N9 strain initially found in Tennessee. Highly pathogenic strains are often fatal for birds, but the low pathogenic strain found in Barron County is not uncommon in poultry flocks and tends to cause few, if any, clinical signs of illness in birds. Low pathogenic avian influenza is similar in severity to the common cold in humans and can eventually clear from a flock without bird loss.

Wild waterfowl are considered the natural reservoir of all non- or low pathogenic avian influenza viruses. These birds carry influenza viruses with no apparent harm to their populations. However, among domestic poultry, infection by avian influenza viruses can cause low and highly virulent forms of disease.

Research gathered during the 2015 avian influenza outbreaks suggests that in some cases, migratory birds are directly spreading the avian influenza virus in its highly pathogenic form. The virus is carried by waterfowl along the Mississippi Flyway, an established migratory route that stretches from the Gulf of Mexico through Minnesota and Wisconsin and into Canada. The virus can be transmitted to domestic poultry from migrating waterfowl through droppings that land on farms.

One of the risk factors that can aid in the spread of avian influenza is farming activity, primarily on crop farms located upwind from commercial poultry facilities. The virus can be left behind by birds feeding or migrating through a field, and then move on dust/dirt/residue particles from the previous year's harvest or spring work. People cay also contribute to spreading the virus to poultry operations through carrying these particles on their shoes and clothes.

According to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health and the University of Minnesota, research has shown that influenza viruses can survive in soil environments that experience cold temperatures. Contamination by droppings from migrating birds of crop fields could serve as a source of avian influenza infection. A University of Minnesota Center for Animal Health and Food Safety report noted that "actively working (tilling or discing) fields closest to turkey barns within the 14-day reference period was a risk factor." This type of work can disrupt soil and introduce airborne particles carrying the virus into neighboring areas.

Farmers located near poultry operations are encouraged to get to know their neighbor and give them notice about upcoming work in the field. This communication will allow poultry farmers to take necessary steps to mitigate the spread of the disease. Farmers working fields or anybody else who sees dead migratory birds or unusually heavy bird activity in Barron County are encouraged to contact the Jennie-O Turkey Store.

The commercial poultry industry provides essential market opportunities for crop farmers in northwestern Wisconsin. Because corn and soybean farmers rely on this market, it is in the best interests of everyone working in agriculture-related areas to minimize the risk of spreading avian influenza.

Tim Jergenson is an agricultural agent with the University of Wisconsin-Extension Barron County, and Joel McReynolds is a community outreach coordinator with the University of Wisconsin-Extension Barron County.



 Christian County Chicken Flock Tested Positive for H7N9 Avian Influenza [WKMS, 20 Mar 2017]

By NICOLE ERWIN

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A Christian County broiler flock of 22,000 hens has been culled after birds tested positive for avian influenza.

The confirmation of H7N9 is the same low pathogenic bird flu strain found in Tennessee, but it can’t be directly linked according to Kentucky State Veterinarian Dr. Robert Stout. “There is no epidemiologic link to Tennessee, the best guess is that it's in the environment from contamination from wild waterfowl, who are a reservoir for avian influenza.”

Murray State University Breathitt Veterinary Center in Hopkinsville detected the H7N9 strain while conducting a routine pre-slaughter test last week. The test is for "spent hens" at the end of their laying cycle before being slaughtered for meat.

Stout said the hens were 'asymptomatic' with no clinical signs of disease. The the strain poses no health risks to humans. The strain is different then the high-pathogenic outbreaks in Asian countries, which can cause severe disease with high mortality.

The bird flu is not transferred through eggs or meat consumption, Stout said.
Stout said the OSV and USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service are conducting surveillance on flocks within a six-mile radius of the affected farm.

Stout would not confirm which company the farm had an affiliation with. A similar outbreak at farm in Tennessee were contracted with Tyson. Those flocks have been 'depopulated' and are not in the food supply.

Poultry producers and bird owners are urged to take biosecurity measures to prevent the spread of influenza. Measures include isolating birds from visitor and others, keeping equipment and vehicles clean, watch for signs and report sick birds.

"The support that we get from our laboratories from UK and in this case from the Breathitt Veterinary Center associated with Murray State is critical to our response and they've been very, very responsive. Certainly the companies and USDA along with KDA have a very strong partnership that work cooperatively to address these issues as quickly as we can," Stout said.

The last bird flu outbreak in 2009 was also isolated cases found in western Kentucky. The affected premises is under quarantine. There was another outbreak in 2015, primarily in Iowa and Minnesota.

Poultry and eggs generated an estimated $1.2 billion in cash receipts to Kentucky farmers in 2015. Farmers in the commonwealth produced 307.7 million broilers and nearly 1.3 billion eggs in 2015.



 Vietnam Reports New A/H5N6 Bird Flu Outbreak [malaysiandigest.com, 20 Mar 2017]

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Chicken are pictured lock in a poultry farm in Bergentheim. Photo: AFP

HANOI -- A new A/H5N6 bird flu outbreak has been reported in Vietnam's central Quang Tri province, said the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's Department of Animal Health on Monday, China's Xinhua news agency reported.

According to the latest announcement by the department, from March 9 to March 17, the A/H5N6 bird flu outbreak occurred in Quang Tri's Trieu Phong district, affecting 130 chickens. The total number of killed and mulled poultry was 200, reported Vietnam's state-run news agency VNA.

So far, Vietnam has reported four A/H5N1 outbreaks in four provinces and two A/H5N6 outbreaks in two provinces in the past 21 days, leaving over 9,000 poultry killed and mulled.

The department assessed that Vietnam is facing "very high" risk of avian bird flu outbreak spreading in the coming time.

Some virus types that have not been present in Vietnam including A/H7N9, A/H5N2, and AH5N8 are likely to penetrate into the country via transport, trade, consumption activities of smuggled poultry and related products without clear origin, especially in border areas, said the department.

-- BERNAMA



 Vietnam detects deadly bird flu outbreak in central province [VnExpress International, 20 Mar 2017]

The H5N6 strain of the virus has now been identified in northern and central Vietnam.
Authorities in the central province of Quang Tri have reported a new outbreak of H5N6 bird flu, and are preparing to cull hundreds of chickens.

This is the second outbreak of the strain recently reported in the country, following a case in the northern province of Cao Bang.

The H5N6 strain, which has been spreading in neighboring China, was confirmed at a livestock farm in Trieu Phong District on March 17 by the Animal Health Department, an agency under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, VietnamPlus reported.

Test results found 130 infected chickens, and the flock of 200 is set to be destroyed. The birds had not been vaccinated, the department said.

The deadly H5N1 strain of the deadly virus has also been circulating in a number of Vietnamese provinces, including Nam Dinh, Quang Ngai, Dong Nai, Soc Trang and Bac Lieu.

The H5N1 strain has killed 65 people in Vietnam since it recurred in 2003, one of the highest fatality rates in the world. It has been been running rampant in China and Cambodia, while H6N5 is also spreading across the latter.

Vietnam is already battling H5N1 and H5N6 outbreaks in seven provinces across the country, and more than 30,000 birds have been destroyed so far this year. A place is only considered free of bird flu after no new infections are reported over a period of 21 days.

Representatives from the department warned that the risk of outbreaks and the virus spreading is high. The department is urging northern border provinces and other cities to remain vigilant against strains of bird flu that have yet to arrive in Vietnam, including H7N9, H5N2 and H5N8.



 Malaysian state declares H5N1 avian flu emergency [Anadolu Agency, 20 Mar 2017]

By P Prem Kumar

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China imposes immediate temporary restriction on imports of raw clean edible bird's nest from Malaysia due to outbreak

KUALA LUMPUR

A northeast Malaysian state has declared an emergency following an outbreak of H5N1, a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus.

The move by Kelantan state’s government came after 28 locations in six districts tested positive for H5N1, commonly known as bird flu.

In a statement Monday, the government said a total of 33,153 poultry and 13,342 eggs have been disposed to date.

"Overall, until March 19, a total of 28 locations tested positive for H5N1 virus in six areas, which involves 43 premises," it stated.

Meanwhile, Kelantan’s Veterinary Services Department said that China has imposed an immediate temporary restriction on imports of raw clean swiftlet edible bird's nest from Malaysia, due to the outbreak.

Although the chicken and duck population of Kelantan only accounts for 0.5 of the total population in Malaysia, China is said to have banned the import due to health safety reasons.

The department has responded by letter to the Chinese authorities explaining the situation of the disease in the country, which includes details on the implementation of three zoning processes to curb its spread in Kelantan.

"We have explained that production of commercial eggs is fully run outside Kelantan and sources of raw clean edible bird’s nest, which are meant for export, are also from outside Kelantan,” it said.

"The supply sources can be traced through a system adopted by the department."

In 2016, Malaysia exported 20.15 metric tons (44,423 pounds) of bird’s nest to China, worth 134.13 million Ringgit ($30.3 million).



 North East poultry keepers urged to follow Bird Flu biosecurity measures [ITV News, 20 Mar 2017]

By Kris Jepson

North East poultry keepers urged to follow Bird Flu .jpg
Avian Flu biosecurity measures
Photo: PA

The new measures were introduced by Defra at the start of March and will be in place until the end of April.

It follows a 12 week period that saw farmers and poultry keepers having to house their chickens and hens, disinfect vehicles and equipment and clean footwear to prevent the spread of Avian flu H5N8 from wild birds.

Jonathan Goodfellow has 12,000 hens at Lynup Hill Farm near Matfen in Northumberland. He said it is essential to adhere to the biosecurity measures after a recent outbreak of the H5N8 disease in Haltwhistle, which resulted in the deaths of 35 chickens.

"With the bio-security the producers have kept in the UK, it’s helped us really keep a lid on things, whereas when you see what a hold it’s had across the rest of Europe it could have been a big disaster. On stormy days you do get an awful lot of coastal birds as they’re one of the main vectors of the virus. They do come this far in land. With the case being a Haltwhistle again 25 miles in the other direction we thought it was prudent, under instruction from our vet, to keep them in for longer until the weather improves and the risk hopefully decreases.
– JONATHAN GOODFELLOW, LYNUP HILL FARM

Some suppliers and retailers have been affected by the measures in that they have lost temporarily their “free range” egg label. For others in Durham City Farmers’ Market the outbreak has affected business.

VVV.jpg
Eggs lose "free range" label Credit: PA

Jane Gray of Broom House Farm, who owns 200 hens, said keeping them indoors had affected produce.

"When we got to February and they were still in, we noticed that our egg production went down, because they didn’t have access to the outside, so they were bored and sick of being inside and so they stopped laying.
– JANE GRAY, BROOM HOUSE FARM

Although this strain of bird flu is particularly virulent, Defra says it cannot harm humans through the food they eat.

CCC.jpg
Hens & Chickens housed to prevent spread of Bird Flu Credit: PA

But the National Farmers Union say it is important preventative measures are taken.

"Poultry keepers are still required to house birds where possible and take the additional biosecurity measures, such as separation of feeding areas, such as ensuring the ranging zones are clean, to ensure that the welfare and the biosecurity of the birds is maintained.
– JAMES MILLS, NATIONAL FARMERS' UNION



 Stabenow asks USDA for information on bird flu response [Fence Post, 20 Mar 2017]

Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. on March 17 asked Acting Deputy Agriculture Secretary Michael Young, the highest ranking official at USDA right now, to explain how the Trump administration is responding to avian influenza around the country.

As Stabenow noted, USDA has found highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in a commercial flock of 73,000 chickens in Tennessee, and on March 16 detected the same HPAI strain in a nearby flock. Two cases of low-pathogenic avian influenza were also discovered in Wisconsin and Tennessee, followed by three additional suspected cases in Alabama this month.

In a letter to Young, Stabenow asked who is in charge of the effort to fight avian influenza, whether the Trump administration's hiring freeze will affect the effort to fight the disease, and who will handle international trade questions about the presence of HPAI in U.S. commercial flocks, including restrictions that other countries place on imports of U.S. poultry.

Stabenow's questions to Young were not directly political in nature, but they did seem to reflect
concern about the lack of high-level political leadership at USDA in the first two months of President Donald Trump's administration.

The White House did not send the full nomination papers for Sonny Perdue, Trump's nominee for agriculture secretary, to the Senate Agriculture Committee until last week. His confirmation hearing is set for March 23.

USDA is responsible for monitoring and eradicating avian flu outbreaks, Stabenow noted.

"While the department has a thoughtful response plan in place for avian flu detections, there are numerous leadership positions at the USDA that have been vacant since the beginning of the Trump administration," she said. "Additionally, the recent federal hiring freeze has raised questions about the USDA's ability to hire temporary veterinarians and other experts to help manage the response.

"The recent detections come in the wake of a devastating HPAI outbreak in 2015 that claimed 48 million birds and caused unprecedented interruptions in production and trade. Nationwide, poultry producers are still recovering from financial losses.

"The confirmation of HPAI presents a threat to our nation's biosecurity, rural economies, and export markets," Stabenow wrote. "The 2015 outbreak demonstrated that a rapid and coordinated response to disease outbreaks is critical. We value the important role the USDA plays in protecting animal health and leading the response to recent outbreaks of avian influenza."



 USDA Confirms Second Bird Flu Case In Tennessee [BlackburnNews.com, 20 Mar 2017]

BY RODNEY HIEMSTRA

Chickens-Feeding BlackburnNews.jpg


The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has confirmed a second case of bird flu in Tennessee.

The H7N9 strain of avian influenza is considered to be highly pathogenic and is from lineage of virus found in North American wild birds.

APHIS says samples from the affected flock were tested last week after the birds were showing signs of illness and a spike in mortality rates.

The USDA is now working with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture to quarantine the area and destroy the rest of the 55,000 chickens in the flock.

Federal and state officials will also begin tests of commercial and backyard birds located within 10 kilometers of the farm.

The Lincoln County barn is located about 3 kilometers away from the first bird flu case which was reported two weeks ago.



 Redgrave bird flu restrictions lifted [East Anglian Daily Times, 20 Mar 2017]

Redgrave bird flu restrictions lifted.jpg
Officials working on the farm at the time of the bird flu outbreak at Redgrave.

Bird flu restrictions have been lifted from around a poultry farm near Redgrave, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has said.

Bird flu restrictions have been lifted from around a poultry farm near Redgrave, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has said 2.jpg
Officials at the site of the first bird flu outbreak at Redgrave.

The UK’s Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer confirmed the highly pathogenic strain of H5N8 avian flu, which came across to the UK from continental Europe last year, at the breeding broilers unit back in February.

As a result, 23,000 birds at the unit were culled, and a 3km Protection Zone and a 10km Surveillance Zone put in place around the infected premises to limit the risk of the disease spreading. Vets carrying out follow-up investigations identified the virus at a nearby duck unit earlier this month and a cull of 55,000 birds carried out.

The poultry industry remains on high alert, and certain restrictions remain in ‘Higher Risk Areas’ to try to avoid the spread of disease from wild birds, meaning ‘free range’ birds either have to be housed, or protected by netting.

A spokesperson for the Animal and Plant Health Agency said: “Where avian influenza has been confirmed, we put restrictions around the site. As of March 20, the 10km surveillance zone in Suffolk has been lifted.

“Prevention zone controls continue to apply across England, requiring poultry keepers to take a variety of actions to protect their birds from disease spread by wild birds.”



 China bans imports of bird's nest from Malaysia following H5N1 outbreak [International Buisiness Times, 20 Mar 2017]

By Samhati Bhattacharjya

imgmalaysia-reports-highly-contagious-h5n1-bird-flu.jpg
Chickens are seen in a contaminate farm while workers from the Animal Protection Ministry prepare to cull them to contain an outbreak of bird flu, at a farm in the village.Reuters

China has temporarily banned the import of bird's nest from Malaysia, after the bird flu outbreak in the northeastern state of Kelantan. On March 6, the highly contagious H5N1 bird flu virus was first detected among a few free-range chickens and at least 18 villages were affected in the state capital of Kota Bharu with almost 25,000 birds, mainly chickens, ducks and geese, being culled.

The New Straits Times daily reported that following the ban, Malaysia's Veterinary Services Department (DVS) sent letters to the Chinese authorities explaining the current scenario and the measures that have been taken to curb the spread of the disease.

The newspaper cited DVS as saying: "We also explained that the chicken and duck (populations) in Kelantan only comprise 0.5 per cent of the total population nationwide. "The production of commercial eggs is fully run outside Kelantan."

"(Finally), the sources of raw clean edible bird's nest, which are meant for export, are from outside Kelantan. The supply sources can be traced through a system adopted by the department," the statement added.

Ahmad Shabery Cheek, the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister told Bernama on Saturday: "Through it, we can identify where the bird's nest is coming from, which birdhouse, village and state. If it is found there are matters that are not permitted, action will be taken on the affected area without involving its bird's nest nationwide."

Shabery added that the ministry will send its representatives to China in order to explain the situation further. "There should not be any concern from China or other countries to restrict the export of poultry and bird's nest from Malaysia," he said.

According to Shabery, every year, Malaysia exports about RM135 million (US$30 million) of bird's nest to China. "The value of the exports is high, therefore, we do not want farmers and entrepreneurs to suffer continued losses," he said.

Shabery said that in case the outbreak recurs, his ministry has also planned to consider "a more appropriate form of compensation" for farmers and operators.

"The prices of bird's nest and the birds go up and down, and it is something the farmers must face as there is no longer a scheme whereby, if the price is low, the government has to pay," he added.



 Trump Proposes USDA Cuts and More Bird Flu in Tennessee [AgInfo.net (press release) (blog), 20 Mar 2017]

by Bob Larson

Download Report: ☞ Trump_Proposes  

**President Trump is proposing to slash the Agriculture Department’s field staff and also make deep reductions in research, rural development and international food aid.

A 62-page budget summary released by the White House is skimpy on details but it calls for a $4.7 billion, or nearly 21 percent, reduction in USDA’s “discretionary” accounts, programs where spending levels are not mandated through the farm bill and other laws. The White House plans to propose reductions in mandatory programs later.

**The USDA has confirmed a second case of highly pathogenic avian influenza, or Bird Flu, in Tennessee, at a commercial breeder flock less than two miles from where the disease was detected earlier this month.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service confirmed the strain of the disease (H7N9) is the same previously found on a nearby poultry farm over two weeks ago.

The flock of 55,000 chickens will be depopulated, and surveillance and testing for the disease will be conducted within a 10-kilometer radius of the site.

**Glyphosate is not a carcinogen. That’s the conclusion of the European Chemicals Agency, setting the stage for the active ingredient in Roundup to receive long-term approval in Europe.

ECHA's Committee for Risk Assessment found that “the available scientific evidence did not meet the criteria to classify glyphosate as a carcinogen, as a mutagen or as toxic for reproduction.

However, the RAC says the chemical does cause “serious eye damage” and is “toxic to aquatic life with long-lasting effects.”



 Stabenow Asks USDA for Information on Bird Flu Response [DTN The Progressive Farmer (registration) (blog), 20 Mar 2017]

by Jerry Hagstrom

Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Stabenow, D-Mich. on Friday asked Acting Deputy Agriculture Secretary Michael Young, the highest ranking official at USDA right now, to explain how the Trump administration is responding to avian influenza around the country.

As Stabenow noted, USDA has found highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in a commercial flock of 73,000 chickens in Tennessee, and on Thursday detected the same HPAI strain in a nearby flock. Two cases of low-pathogenic avian influenza were also discovered in Wisconsin and Tennessee, followed by three additional suspected cases in Alabama this month.

In a letter to Young, Stabenow asked who is in charge of the effort to fight avian influenza, whether the Trump administration’s hiring freeze will affect the effort to fight the disease, and who will handle international trade questions about the presence of HPAI in U.S. commercial flocks, including restrictions that other countries place on imports of U.S. poultry.

Stabenow’s questions to Young were not directly political in nature, but they did seem to reflect concern about the lack of high-level political leadership at USDA in the first two months of President Donald Trump’s administration.

The White House did not send the full nomination papers for Sonny Perdue, Trump’s nominee for Agriculture secretary, to the Senate Agriculture Committee until last week. His confirmation hearing is set for Thursday.

USDA is responsible for monitoring and eradicating avian flu outbreaks, Stabenow noted.

“While the department has a thoughtful response plan in place for avian flu detections, there are numerous leadership positions at the USDA that have been vacant since the beginning of the Trump administration,” she said. “Additionally, the recent federal hiring freeze has raised questions about the USDA’s ability to hire temporary veterinarians and other experts to help manage the response.

“The recent detections come in the wake of a devastating HPAI outbreak in 2015 that claimed 48 million birds and caused unprecedented interruptions in production and trade. Nationwide, poultry producers are still recovering from financial losses.

“The confirmation of HPAI presents a threat to our nation’s biosecurity, rural economies, and export markets,” Stabenow wrote. “The 2015 outbreak demonstrated that a rapid and coordinated response to disease outbreaks is critical. We value the important role the USDA plays in protecting animal health and leading the response to recent outbreaks of avian influenza.”

- Stabenow letter to Young ☞ Letter  

House Ag schedules three farm bill hearings this week

The House Agriculture Committee has scheduled three hearings on farm bill topics this week.

-The House Agriculture Nutrition Subcommittee will hold a hearing Tuesday at 10 a.m. on nutrition distribution systems.

-The House Agriculture Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee will hold a hearing Tuesday at 2 p.m .on livestock producer perspectives on the farm bill.

-The full House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday at 10 a.m. on dairy policy in the farm bill.

Kellyanne Conway was once a blueberry packer

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump, was a blueberry packer during the summer when she was in high school and college, The Atlantic’s Molly Ball reports in a new profile.

Her Secret Service code name is “Blueberry,” according to a New York magazine profile.

The Atlantic — Kellyanne’s Alternative Universe ☞ Kellyanne  

New York — Kellyanne Conway Is a Star ☞ Kellyanne Conway  



 H7N9 Fatalities Hit 13 in East China's Jiangxi [ThePoultrySite.com, 20 Mar 2017]

3003_H7N9.jpg


CHINA - Thirteen of the 37 people infected with H7N9 avian flu have died since January in east China's Jiangxi Province, the provincial health and family planning commission announced Saturday.

The province has stepped up monitoring of the epidemic as well as efforts to halt the operation of live poultry markets and carry out disinfection and quarantine to prevent infection.

The public are advised to avoid contact with dead and live poultry and to seek medical treatment in the event of any suspicious symptoms.

According to the National Health and Family Planning Commission, 79 people died nationwide in January from the virus.

H7N9 is a bird flu strain first reported to have infected humans in China in March 2013. Infections usually occur in winter and spring.



 Duck farm in Changhua tests positive for H5N2 bird flu [Taiwan News, 20 Mar 2017]

By Matthew Lubin

58cf9e1121535.jpg
Workers conduct culling operation in Changhua County (By Central News Agency)

It is the 7th duck farm in the county to test positive for avian flu this year

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Another duck farm, this time in Taiwan’s Changhua County, has been struck by a high pathogenic strain of H5N2 avian influenza, according to the Animal Disease Control Center of Changhua County (ADCC).

Tung Meng-chih (董孟治), head of the ADCC, said that to prevent the spread of bird flu to other poultry farms, authorities carried out the culling of 1,542 ducks today as well as disinfecting procedures. The farm will not be allowed to house any birds for 21 days, after which the ADCC will return to conduct tests of the property to ensure it is free of bird flu.

The ADCC will also carry out tests and monitor the surroundings within one kilometer for the next three months to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.

Tung said that Changhua County has culled 18,424 chickens and 7,627 ducks so far this year. Avian flu was found at one chicken farm and seven duck farms in the county.

Last week, 1,277 ducks were culled at a farm in Fangyuan Township, Changhua County.

There were 91 poultry farms in Taiwan confirmed to have infections of avian influenza viruses, and 754,524 birds had been culled as of March 15, according to the Council of Agriculture (COA). Twelve of the 91 farms were reported infected with H5N6, which can be transmitted to humans.

Four hundred abandoned dead chickens tested positive for H5N6 in Hsinchu in February, the county’s first case of the year. A few days after the case, COA Minister Lin Tsung-hsien (林聰賢) said that poultry transport and slaughter could resume as the government agency had the H5N6 strain under control and the risk of another outbreak was minimal.

At the end of February, a Kaohsiung businessman died after contracting the H5N9 strain of avian flu. The man contracted the virus while working in China.

The H5N2 strain of avian influenza has been reported to infect humans, but the most serious cases only developed conjunctivitis. There has been no evidence of human-to-human infections of this strain of the virus.

The COA recently introduced a rule requiring ducks to be tested for bird flu before being slaughtered for sale because infected ducks often show no symptoms.



 Kelantan destroys 1,800 poultry to contain bird flu outbreak [Malay Mail Online, 20 Mar 2017]

ciken2003s.jpg
Kelantan has disposed of 33,153 poultry and 13,342 eggs so far.

KOTA BHARU, March 20 — Kelantan Veterinary Services Department destroyed 1,800 poultry and 1,075 eggs yesterday in a bid to stem the outbreak of avian flu (H5N1) in the state.

The department in a statement today said it also took 115 samples from 23 premises in a monitoring operation conducted yesterday.

It did not disclose the locations involved in the operation but said no new affected location were reported as of yesterday.

“Overall until March 19, a total of 28 locations tested positive for H5N1 virus in six areas — Kota Bharu (14 locations), Pasir Mas (six), Tumpat (three), Tanah Merah (one), Bachok (one) and Pasir Puteh (three) involving 43 premises.

“The total poultry disposed of so far is 33,153 and 13,342 eggs, while for monitoring activities, a total of 3,127 samples had been taken from 525 owners,” the department said.

Meanwhile, state Agriculture, Agro-based Industry, Biotechnology and Green Technology Committee chairman Datuk Che Abdullah Mat Nawi urged farmers and residents to report immediately, any incidence of poultry death in their area.

He said it was to facilitate the control operations and allow speedier recovery from the epidemic.

“We hope the state government would be able to quickly declare the state as disease free to enable farmers to resume their activities,” he told reporters.

He said this after attending the opening by Regent of Kelantan Tengku Dr Muhammad Faiz Petra, of the fifth meeting of the 13th session of the Kelantan State Legislative Assembly at Complex Kota Darul Naim here today.

The Kelantan state government on March 15 declared the outbreak as a ‘state disaster’. — Bernama



 Third Case of Avian Flu Found in Tennessee [Wisconsin Ag Connection, 20 Mar 2017]

A flock of chickens at a second Lincoln County commercial poultry breeding operation have tested positive for avian influenza, according to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

Officials confirmed this particular strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is the same that affected a commercial chicken flock earlier this month in Lincoln County.

The two facilities are less than two miles apart so operators had been closely monitoring and testing the birds.

It's the third case of bird flu identified in Tennessee this month. On March 8, a flock in Giles County tested positive for low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI).

Officials stress that neither HPAI nor LPAI pose a risk to the food supply and none of the affected animals entered the food chain.

The Tennessee Department of Health confirms that the risk of a human becoming ill with avian influenza during poultry illness incidents is very low. Officials said they will continue monitoring commercial and backyard poultry for signs of influenza.



 Mon State authorities move to bolster Avian Flu defenses [Burma News International, 20 Mar 2017]

The Mon Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Rural Development has begun a campaign to inspect poultry farms and educate their operators following the detection of Avian Flu in Sagaing Region. The Ministry’s Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department seeks to prevent an outbreak in the state, which could devastate an important industry.

Inspectors in Mon State are visiting farms in all of the state’s 10 townships to inspect operations and train farmers in safe poultry handling practices, such as minimizing human cross-contamination of bird populations. The push comes after the H5 and H9 strains of the Avian Flu, also known as Bird Flu and Avian Influenza, were discovered in birds at a designated poultry zone near the Sagaing city of Monywa.

A_Poultry_farm_in_Mawlamyine_Township.jpg
A Poultry farm in Mawlamyine Township (Photo: MNA)

“We are educating farmers about the importance of bio-security, especially in preventing the spread of Bird Flu. We tell them how to use medicinal sprays and vaccinate birds, and how to minimize contact between poultry and other species, including humans,” said Dr. Aung Than Win, head of the Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department.

He added that local authorities have been instructed to be vigilant to any unusual poultry deaths in their jurisdictions, and to report any such deaths to the department.

Dr. Chit Thein, the leader of the department in Mawlamyine, formerly known as Moulmein, said that officials would begin inspecting poultry brought into the state capital from other states and regions.

Poultry farmers and industry groups fear what the flu could do to their stocks, but also worry that preventative measures could be onerous. Ko Nyo Min, the leader of a state livestock industry group, argued that the threat comes from outside of Mon State: “the problem is not infected chickens in the state. The real danger is from birds imported illegally from Thailand.” He said that poultry and eggs are smuggled from Thailand two or three times a month, avoiding inspection at the border.

Still, the large number of birds in Mon State presents a challenge to prevention efforts. The Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department reports more than 200,000 laying hens and 900,000 meat chickens in Mon State, as well as 200,000 laying ducks and 150,000 meat ducks.

Avian Flu has only been detected in Mon State once, when infected birds were found simultaneously at Mawlamyine and Thanbyuzayat farms in 2007.



 Bird flu cases revive fear of repeat of major 2015 outbreak [Agri News, 20 Mar 2017]

MINNEAPOLIS — The detection of a highly pathogenic strain of bird flu at a Tennessee chicken farm has poultry farmers stepping up security in an attempt to prevent an outbreak like the one in 2015 that required the destruction of millions of chickens and turkeys in the Midwest. The appearance of milder forms of bird flu at a Wisconsin turkey farm and another Tennessee chicken farm has heightened concern.

Here are some things to know about the state of avian influenza in the U.S. and worldwide, and how the poultry industry has tried to prepare for a recurrence.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that a highly pathogenic form of bird flu was confirmed earlier this month in a flock of 73,500 breeding broiler chickens in Lincoln County, Tennessee, after hundreds of birds began dying. It was identified as an H7N9 virus of North American wild bird origin. The USDA stressed that it was not the same H7N9 virus of Chinese lineage that has sickened poultry and people in Asia, nor is it related to the virus that caused the 2015 U.S. outbreak.

Officials quickly moved to kill the entire flock to prevent the virus from spreading. The affected farm supplies Tyson Foods Inc.

The USDA also said a flock of 84,000 turkeys at a Jennie-O Turkey Store farm near Barron, Wis., had been confirmed with a low pathogenic H5N2 virus. The USDA stressed it was different from the highly pathogenic H5N2 virus that devastated the Midwest chicken egg and turkey industry in 2015.

Days later, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture reported a case of low pathogenic H7N9 at a different chicken breeding farm operated by an unspecified different company. Officials said they didn't think one farm sickened the other. The birds in the affected flock were killed.

The 2015 outbreak

The USDA calls the 2015 outbreak the largest animal health emergency in U.S. history. It cost farmers nearly 50 million birds before it burned out in June 2015. Iowa, the country's top egg producer, and Minnesota, the No. 1 turkey producer, were by far the hardest hit.

Retail turkey prices weren't noticeably affected, but egg prices soared. Congressional testimony as the dust was starting to settle conservatively estimated the total economic impact at over $3.3 billion.

An outbreak of H7N8 in Dubois County, Indiana, in January 2016 remained isolated to 10 farms, but more than 414,000 turkeys and chickens died. Most of those farms had a low pathogenic version, but the USDA said it apparently mutated into highly pathogenic at one farm.

High-path vs. low-path

The first symptom of highly pathogenic bird flu, the kind that's almost always fatal to domestic poultry, is typically birds dying en masse. Scientists learned in 2015 that it's crucial to euthanize entire infected flocks immediately.

"You want a very rapid response and a very rapid stamping out. ... The faster the birds die, the faster the outbreak stops," said Dr. Carol Cardona, a poultry disease expert at the University of Minnesota.

Low pathogenic is more common. Symptoms are typically mild, if any. Infected birds usually recover.

While response plans differ from state to state, a common and effective approach is "controlled marketing." Infected flocks are not euthanized but are kept quarantined until they recover and test negative for the virus, and then they can be marketed, Cardona said.

That's what's being done in Wisconsin, according to the USDA.

Farmers' response

U.S. producers have stepped up biosecurity in response to the new cases, as well the ongoing outbreaks in Asia, Europe and Africa that have led to the destruction of hundreds of millions of birds and killed dozens of humans. Bird flu viruses don't usually spread to people except by close contact with infected birds, but health authorities are always alert to the possibility.

Since wild waterfowl are considered the main reservoirs of bird flu, farmers and scientists get nervous when birds are migrating. Droppings from infected birds flying north in the spring, or south in the fall, can get tracked into barns or carried in on contaminated equipment. So producers are being more vigilant about keeping people and vehicles from entering their farms unless they absolutely need to be there.

"They understand this is a high-risk period with the spring migration period, so they're watching their flocks closely and doing additional surveillance to make sure that if anything pops up, they're going to identify it quickly," said Dr. Shauna Voss, senior veterinarian at the Minnesota Poultry Testing Laboratory in Willmar.

Since 2015, many farmers have built the "Danish entry" system into their barns, said Steve Olson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association. Anyone entering or leaving has to sit on a bench, take their boots off, swing their legs around to the "clean" side of the room, put on new boots and clothing that stay in the barn, and reverse the process when they leave.

What about vaccines?

Bird flu viruses keep evolving, like human influenza viruses, so a vaccine that works against one strain might be ineffective against another. While an H5N2 vaccine was developed in 2015, it was never deployed in the field. Producers are wary of vaccines because many countries refuse poultry products from countries that use vaccines. That is because tests for the disease look for the same antibodies that vaccines trigger an animal to produce.



 Bird flu in Kelantan: China bans imports of bird's nest from Malaysia [Channel NewsAsia, 20 Mar 2017]

Birdnest.jpg
A shop owner displays dried bird's nest at her shop in Port Klang, west of Kuala Lumpur. (AFP Photo/Saeed Khan)

SINGAPORE: China has imposed a temporary restriction on imports of bird’s nest from Malaysia, following an outbreak of bird flu in the northeastern state of Kelantan.

The highly contagious H5N1 bird flu virus was first detected on Mar 6 among a few free-range chickens. Eighteen villages in the state capital of Kota Bharu have been affected and almost 25,000 birds - mainly chickens, ducks and geese - were culled.

Following China’s ban, Malaysia's Veterinary Services Department (DVS) sent letters to the Chinese authorities to explain the situation and the measures being taken to curb the spread of the disease, a report by the New Straits Times daily said.

"We also explained that the chicken and duck (populations) in Kelantan only comprise 0.5 per cent of the total population nationwide,” the newspaper cited DVS as saying. “The production of commercial eggs is fully run outside Kelantan.

"(Finally), the sources of raw clean edible bird’s nest, which are meant for export, are from outside Kelantan. The supply sources can be traced through a system adopted by the department," it said.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek told reporters on Saturday: "Through it, we can identify where the bird's nest is coming from, which birdhouse, village and state. If it is found there are matters that are not permitted, action will be taken on the affected area without involving its bird's nest nationwide."

Shabery added that his ministry will send representatives to China to further explain the situation. "There should not be any concern from China or other countries to restrict the export of poultry and bird's nest from Malaysia," Bernama quoted him as saying.

Malaysia exports about RM135 million (US$30 million) of bird's nest to China a year, according to Shabery.

"The value of the exports is high, therefore, we do not want farmers and entrepreneurs to suffer continued losses," he said.

Shabery said his ministry was also prepared to consider “a more appropriate form of compensation” for farmers and operators if the outbreak recurs.

"The prices of bird's nest and the birds go up and down, and it is something the farmers must face as there is no longer a scheme whereby, if the price is low, the government has to pay," he added.
- CNA/ek

Ebola outbreak News from 1 Mar 2017



 Doctor was 'dishonest' in screening nurse who had Ebola, tribunal finds [The Guardian, 27 Mar 2017]

by Helen Pidd
Panel finds Dr Hannah Ryan, who worked in Sierra Leone with Pauline Cafferkey in Ebola outbreak, misled screening staff

3555 ebola.jpg
Dr Hannah Ryan, who appeared before the Medical Practitioners Tribunal. Ryan misled screening staff over Pauline Cafferkey’s temperature, the panel found. Photograph: Richard Stonehouse/Getty

A doctor acted dishonestly when she lied to investigators about the dangerously high temperature of a nurse who went on to develop Ebola, a tribunal has found.

Dr Hannah Ryan, who had been working in Sierra Leone during the west Africa Ebola outbreak of 2014, was one of the medics who assessed Pauline Cafferkey following the Scottish nurse’s return to the UK in December 2014.

Ryan did not raise the alarm when a colleague wrote down Cafferkey’s temperature as 1C lower than it actually was during a “chaotic” screening process at Heathrow airport on 28 December 2014, a medical practitioners tribunal found on Monday.

A raised temperature can be the first sign of Ebola, which can kill within five days. Cafferkey, who twice nearly died from the virus, went on to develop one of the worst cases on record for people treated in the west.

During screening at Heathrow, Cafferkey insisted she was feeling fine and was eventually allowed to catch her connecting flight to Glasgow. The following day, she developed further Ebola symptoms and was admitted to hospital for urgent treatment.

The tribunal found that Ryan had acted in a “misleading” manner when she agreed that the form recording the lower, wrong temperature be submitted to screening staff from Public Health England (PHE) at the airport.

But Ryan, who had only just graduated from medical school, did not intend to conceal Cafferkey’s real temperature at the airport, knowing it to be at least 38.2C – higher than the 37.5 considered normal – the panel found.

However, the tribunal decided that the doctor had later been “dishonest” when she concealed her role in taking Cafferkey’s temperature during a conversation with Dr Nick Gent on 2 January 2015. Gent, deputy head of the emergency response department at PHE, had phoned her during PHE’s investigation into when Cafferkey’s symptoms first emerged.

Ryan did not tell him she had taken Cafferkey’s temperature and told him words to the effect that the nurse’s temperature was “normal”, the panel found.

The tribunal heard that Ryan and Cafferkey were one group among many British medics who put their own lives at risk by volunteering their medical skills and going to west Africa to help fight the outbreak.

Deployed on 22 November 2014, they were based at an 80-bed treatment centre in Kerry Town, a village in Sierra Leone, working “tirelessly in dangerous and highly pressurised conditions” during which they “formed a strong bond of friendship”, according to Fraser Coxhill, representing the General Medical Council.

The medical practitioners tribunal, which is independent of the GMC, will decide later this week whether Ryan’s fitness to practice as a doctor was impaired due to her actions and whether to impose sanctions.



 ‘Inferno’ brings insight and humanity to Ebola outbreak [Washington Post, 20 Mar 2017]

By Christina Ledbetter 

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This image released by St. Martin’s Press shows “Inferno: A Doctor’s ebola Story,” by Steven Hatch M.D. (St. Martin’s Press via AP) (Associated Press)

“Inferno” (St. Martin’s Press), by Steven Hatch

In 2014, Dr. Steven Hatch, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, flew into a Liberian airport in the midst of the largest Ebola outbreak in history, donned multiple layers of protective gear and stepped into an Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU).

There, he served as a physician (and at times a nurse’s aide, a surrogate parent and even a masseur) to the droves of patients arriving in makeshift ambulances. “Inferno” is Hatch’s exploration of Ebola’s origins and spread throughout Africa and beyond, coupled with his personal experience caring for those infected.

The story opens in December 2013. A toddler plays beneath a tree in the African village of Meliandou, oblivious of the Angolan free-tailed bats that are thought to have passed on the virus that is residing above him, effectively making the child patient zero. From here Hatch takes readers back, explaining the science of Ebola along with the historical factors playing into Liberia’s political climate, which paved the way for an epidemic.

Much of the book hones in on the day-to-day workings of the ETU, detailing the complexities of treating a deadly virus with such limited resources. From the inability to use a stethoscope due to the limitations of the protective gear to keeping patients warm after hospital blankets were stolen, every aspect of fighting the spread of the disease proved toilsome.

Hatch packs a wealth of knowledge into the book, but also details the minutia of red tape associated with managing infectious diseases. With straightforward prose, his work goes beyond what most Americans watched on nightly news by examining the scientific, political, social and religious implications of the disease. Though the 2014 epidemic is behind us, “Inferno” serves as a poignant reminder of the widespread complications that accompany the onset, management and aftermath of plagues.



 Doctor who took Ebola nurse's temperature faces watchdog [STV News, 20 Mar 2017]

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Dr Hannah Ryan is accused of 'misleading and dishonest' conduct over screening.

A doctor who took nurse Pauline Cafferkey's temperature hours before she was diagnosed with Ebola is facing a watchdog accused of "misleading and dishonest" conduct.

Dr Hannah Ryan is due to appear before the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service over the Heathrow Airport screening of Ms Cafferkey following her return to the UK from Sierra Leone in December 2014.

Dr Ryan is also accused of "misleading and dishonest" conduct in a telephone call with another doctor in January 2015.

The doctor is alleged to have attempted to "conceal her involvement in, and details of, the taking and recording of [Ms Cafferkey's] temperature on December 28, 2014."



 Liverpool doctor admits misleading officials over nurse with ebola [Liverpool Echo, 20 Mar 2017]

BYTOM BELGER

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Hannah Ryan with staff in Kerry Town, Sierra Leone, where she worked at a doctor to fight Ebola.

A Liverpool doctor has admitted misleading health officials at an airport over the temperature of a British nurse who was later diagnosed with ebola.

Hannah Ryan could be struck off if a medical practitioners’ tribunal finds her behaviour amounted to misconduct, which she denied at a hearing in Manchester today.

Dr Ryan was one of the first NHS doctors to head to Sierra Leone in 2014 to help tackle the deadly virus, where she worked alongside Scottish nurse Pauline Cafferkey.

The two were part of a group of volunteers who returned home together, and were tested at an ebola screening area at Heathrow Airport when they landed in December 2014.

Dr Ryan admitted she had taken Ms Cafferkey’s temperature herself and recorded it as one degree lower than it actually was.

She also admitted failing to tell a public health official investigating the issue several days later that Ms Cafferkey’s temperature had been above 37.5°C - the threshold which is a warning sign for ebola.

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Liverpool doctor Hannah Ryan in Sierra Leone, where she went to help the fight against ebola

Ms Cafferkey became seriously ill within a few hours and was later diagnosed with the serious illness, which she survived.

Fraser Coxhill, representing the General Medical Council which brought the case against the doctor, said the two Sierra Leone doctors had “formed a strong bond of friendship”.

He said returning volunteers became frustrated by the “crowded, noisy and chaotic” airport screening area, with fears some Scottish medics would miss connecting flights to Glasgow.

The volunteers agreed to take their own temperatures to speed up the process, the tribunal heard.

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Pauline Cafferkey

He said Dr Ryan was in a state of “disbelief, fear and panic” at Ms Cafferkey’s raised temperature, and recorded a lower one instead of alerting Public Health England officials.

Mr Coxhill continued: “Whilst there is no doubt that Dr Ryan is a practitioner of hitherto unblemished character who undertook important selfless work in Sierra Leone, it is submitted that the events of 28th December 2014 and 2nd January 2015 appear to demonstrate someone whose first instinct is to mislead and be dishonest.”

Ms Cafferkey herself was cleared last year of misconduct by letting the wrong temperature be reported when she was tested.

A nursing tribunal ruled Ms Cafferkey’s judgment had been so impaired by the developing illness when she flew home that she could not be found guilty of misconduct.

Dr Ryan’s tribunal was adjourned to Tuesday morning.



 Doctor admits misleading medics over Pauline Cafferkey temperature [The Guardian, 20 Mar 2017]

by Josh Halliday

Hannah Ryan says she recorded lower reading for Ebola nurse on return from Sierra Leone but denies misconduct.jpg
 Pauline Cafferkey was cleared of misconduct over the recording of her temperature in September. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Hannah Ryan says she recorded lower reading for Ebola nurse on return from Sierra Leone but denies misconduct

A doctor has admitted misleading other medics by concealing Pauline Cafferkey’s raised temperature before she became seriously ill with Ebola.

Hannah Ryan, who volunteered in Sierra Leone in her first year after graduating from medical school, was one of the medics who assessed Cafferkey following the Scottish nurse’s return to the UK in 2014.

Ryan allegedly wrote down a temperature 1C lower than it actually was during a “chaotic” screening process at Heathrow airport on 28 December 2014, a medical practitioners tribunal heard on Monday.

A raised temperature can be the first sign of Ebola, which can kill within five days. Cafferkey, who twice nearly died from the virus, went on to develop one of the worst cases on record for people treated in the west.

Cafferkey was cleared of misconduct over the recording of her temperature in September.

The tribunal in Manchester heard on Monday that Ryan recorded Cafferkey’s temperature as being 37.2C despite knowing it was at least 38.2C – above the average body temperature of 37C and higher than the 37.5C threshold requiring further assessment by a consultant in infectious diseases.

She later told another doctor there were no abnormalities in the temperatures of Cafferkey’s group of returnees, according to a written summary of the allegations by the General Medical Council.

Dr Bernard Herdan, the tribunal chair, was told Ryan’s conduct was “misleading and dishonest” and that her “fitness to practise is impaired because of [Ryan’s] misconduct”.

Ryan admitted misleading others and “acquiesced” in the wrong temperature being given but denies misconduct by her actions at the airport and during a subsequent investigation by Public Health England.

Fraser Coxhill, representing the General Medical Council, said Ryan and Cafferkey were one group among many British medics who put their own lives at risk by volunteering their medical skills and going to west Africa to help fight the outbreak.

Deployed on 22 November 2014, they were based at an 80-bed treatment centre in Kerry Town, working “tirelessly in dangerous and highly pressurised conditions” during which they “formed a strong bond of friendship”, Coxhill said.

But about a month later when they returned to the UK on the afternoon of 28 December, the Ebola screening area at the Heathrow terminal was “crowded, noisy and chaotic”.

In the queue to get clearance from PHE medics to be allowed to leave “murmurings of discontent and frustration” grew, the tribunal heard. There were concerns some Scottish medics would miss connecting flights to Glasgow due to delays in the screening process.

Trying to help PHE staff with the process, they agreed to take and record their own temperatures. Ryan took Cafferkey’s temperature, which was 38.2C – a warning sign for the Ebola virus.

The two medics and another nurse with them, Donna Wood, discussed the reading, “during which someone said, ‘Let’s get out of here’,” Coxhill told the tribunal.

Cafferkey’s temperature was then recorded as 37.2C, the form was passed to PHE staff and the medics went on their way.

However, in baggage reclaim there was further discussion between the medics, and PHE staff were contacted.

When Cafferkey’s temperature was taken again it was below the threshold. However, by this time she had taken paracetamol, which lowers body temperature. Cafferkey returned to Glasgow but the next day fell seriously ill with Ebola.

Four days later, Dr Nick Gent, from PHE, called Ryan to investigate what had happened at the airport. Ryan later admitted not telling him she had taken Cafferkey’s temperature and that it was above the threshold for possible Ebola infection.

Coxhill added: “Whilst there is no doubt that Dr Ryan is a practitioner of hitherto unblemished character who undertook important selfless work in Sierra Leone, it is submitted that the events of 28 December 2014 and 2 January 2015 appear to demonstrate someone whose first instinct is to mislead and be dishonest.”

Ryan’s involvement emerged during a misconduct hearing for Donna Wood, another volunteer medic who was suspended for two months in November after being found to have concealed Cafferkey’s raised temperature.

In evidence to the Nursing and Midwifery Council, Ryan said she was in shock after taking Cafferkey’s temperature in her left and right ears and finding it raised.

She told the NMC hearing in a written witness statement: “I asked Pauline if she was feeling OK. She said she was feeling fine.

“I stood there in shock. It was like I was paralysed. I had no clear thought process. Ebola is such a horrible disease that every time you have a high temperature you worry, even when you know there’s no reason to.”

Ryan said only the three medics were present and that Wood “broke the inertia by saying something like, ‘I’m just going to write it down as 37.2 degrees’” so they could “get out of here and sort it out”.

The tribunal is expected to last 10 days.



 Doctor admits misleading over Ebola [BBC News, 20 Mar 2017]

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A doctor has admitted she misled other medics about the health of a colleague returning to the UK from West Africa with Ebola in 2014.

Dr Hannah Ryan told a disciplinary hearing she had been in a state of "disbelief, fear and panic" after finding out nurse Pauline Cafferkey had had a high temperature, a warning sign.

Instead of alerting public health officials at Heathrow Airport, both continued on their journey home.

Dr Ryan denies misconduct.

Seriously ill

Dr Ryan and Ms Cafferkey had been working in Sierra Leone with other volunteers to help treat Ebola victims.

And on 28 December they had landed at Heathrow, "keen" to be home for the Christmas holiday period, the tribunal heard.

They queued to get clearance from Public Health England medics to be allowed to leave.
Trying to help PHE staff with the process, they agreed to take and record their own temperatures.

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 Pauline Cafferkey recovered from Ebola but has since had various health complications

Dr Ryan had then taken Ms Cafferkey's temperature and got a reading of 38.2C - higher than normal.

But a lower temperature, 37.2C, was actually recorded, and Ms Cafferkey was then allowed to catch her connecting flight to Glasgow to go home.

She fell seriously ill the next day and tested positive for Ebola.

• Profile: Pauline Cafferkey ☞ Ebola nurse  

・What is Ebola? ☞ Ebola  

Dr Ryan has admitted misleading others and that she "acquiesced" in the wrong temperature being given, but denies misconduct by her actions at the airport and during a subsequent investigation by Public Health England.

The tribunal was adjourned until tomorrow morning.

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Donna Wood arrived back in the UK on the same flight as Ebola survivor Pauline Cafferkey

In September 2016, the Nursing and Midwifery Council cleared Ms Cafferkey of misconduct over claims she had hidden her infection, after a panel ruled that her judgement had been impaired by her illness.

In November, another colleague, senior nurse Donna Woods, was suspended by the NMC for two months. The panel found Mrs Wood suggested a lower temperature be recorded on Ms Cafferkey's screening form so they could pass through checks at passport control more quickly.



 Doctor hid temperature of nurse who caught Ebola as medics wanted to get home for Christmas, tribunal hears [Telegraph.co.uk, 20 Mar 2017]

HEALTH-Ebola-115196_PA_Ebola-epidemic-large_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqsCNzwEn1rYoPN2nqjhn_yqvClEX0y97O_PfEfmWN17o.jpg
Dr Hannah Ryan took the temperature of Pauline Cafferkey, a Scottish nurse, as they waited to go through virus screening at Heathrow Airport in December 2014 CREDIT: LISA FERGUSON/SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY/PA WIRE

A doctor concealed the high temperature of a nurse who had caught the Ebola virus as medics were keen to get home to celebrate Christmas, a tribunal has heard.
Dr Hannah Ryan took the temperature of Pauline Cafferkey, a Scottish nurse, as they waited to go through virus screening at Heathrow Airport in December 2014.

The reading showed her temperature was at 38.2 centigrade - above the 37.5 centigrade threshold which is a warning sign for the disease. But Ms Ryan instead recorded her temperature at 37.2 centigrade and Miss Cafferkey was allowed to catch her connected flight to Glasgow to go home.

On Monday, the Medical Practitioners Tribunal heard Dr Ryan was in a state of "disbelief, fear and panic" at the raised reading and failed to alert Public Health England (PHE) medics at Heathrow screening groups returning from West Africa.

JS108515752_Getty-Images_Pauline-Cafferkey-Ebola-Victim-xlarge_trans_NvBQzQNjv4Bq-SCQ_D7AvJntdYeSFZkaAMHceoqek9ZvgWGlN0CvTl0.jpg
Miss Cafferkey in September 2016 CREDIT: MARK RUNNACLES/GETTY IMAGES

Miss Cafferkey fell seriously ill the next day and tested positive for the Ebola virus.
Dr Ryan has admitted misleading others and "acquiesced" in the wrong temperature being given, but denies misconduct by her actions at the airport and during a subsequent investigation by PHE.

Fraser Coxhill, representing the General Medical Council, said Dr Ryan and Ms Cafferkey were one group among many British medics who put their own lives at risk by volunteering their medical skills and going to west Africa to help fight the outbreak.

Deployed on November 22, 2014, they were based at an 80 bed treatement centre in Kerry Town in Sierra Leone, working "tirelessly in dangerous and highly pressurised conditions" during which they "formed a strong bond of friendship", Mr Coxhill said.

JS113687772_PA_Donna-Wood-Ebola-Campaign-large_trans_NvBQzQNjv4Bq7OLvB-m2XzG_BNLy2OXVPvOG14YCRc3xmAlhl3Dh-Po.jpg
Donna Wood, another nurse with the group, has already appeared in front of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) CREDIT: YUI MOK/PA WIRE

But around a month later when they returned to the UK on the afternoon of December 28, the Ebola screening area at the Heathrow terminal was, "crowded, noisy and chaotic".

In the queue to get clearance from PHE medics to be allowed to leave, "murmurings of discontent and frustration" grew, the tribunal heard - with worries some Scottish medics would miss connecting flights to Glasgow due to delays in the screening process.

Trying to help PHE staff with the process, they agreed to take and record their own temperatures. Dr Ryan took Ms Cafferkey's temperature, which was 38.2C - a warning sign for the Ebola virus.

The two medics and another nurse with them, Donna Wood, discussed the reading, "during which someone said, 'Let's get out of here'," Mr Coxhill told the tribunal.

Ms Cafferkey's temperature was then recorded as 37.2C, the form was passed to PHE staff and the medics went on their way.



 Liberia Investigates Death of Celebrated Ebola Fighter [Voice of America, 1 Mar 2017]

DAKAR, SENEGAL —

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FILE - Health workers wash their hands after taking a blood specimen from a child to test for the Ebola virus in a area were a 17-year old boy died from the virus on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia, June 30, 2015.

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FILE - A health worker takes a man's temperature, center, before his is allowed to enter into a government building, with a message, right, reading "Kindly wash your hands before entering" the building in Monrovia, Liberia, Jan. 14, 2016.

The death from childbirth of a woman named Time magazine "Person of the Year" in 2014 for her work fighting Ebola in Liberia is being investigated after reports surfaced that health workers were afraid to treat her, the country's health ministry said Wednesday.

Ebola survivor Salomé Karwah died last week four days after suffering complications from giving birth by cesarean section in a major hospital, according to the ministry's chief medical officer, Francis Kateh.

Josephine Manley, Karwah's sister, told Time that they rushed her back to hospital after she lapsed into convulsions following the birth, but said staff refused to touch her because she had contracted the deadly virus in late 2014.

"It is tragic that one of our heroes, who survived Ebola, died from childbirth in a hospital," Kateh told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Liberia's capital, Monrovia.

"We are taking the death very seriously," he said, adding that the authorities were investigating whether staff had refused to treat Karwah.

Karwah, who worked as a nursing assistant after recovering from the virus, was one of five people featured on the Time magazine cover for their work battling Ebola.

Thousands of victims

Liberia was hit hardest by the world's worst outbreak of Ebola, losing more than 4,800 people in an epidemic that killed about 11,300 people across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone between 2013 and 2016.

Many survivors have been shunned by their families, communities and even health workers.

The virus can lie dormant and hide in parts of the body such as the eyes and testicles long after leaving the bloodstream — raising questions about whether it can ever be beaten, with West Africa's 17,000 survivors acting as a potential human reservoir.

While health experts say the risk of Ebola re-emerging in survivors and being transmitted to others is low, some fear that the stigma surrounding the virus could lead to further preventable deaths of survivors in the three affected countries.

"Emergencies like these create lasting effects, partly because they can be so destructive to the social fabric of a country or community," said Richard Mallett, research officer at the Overseas Development Institute, a U.K.-based think tank.

The Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA), a medical charity, said many Ebola survivors were struggling to access health care in West Africa, but not as a result of being stigmatized by health workers.

"Many survivors lost their jobs, or their spouse, and can no longer afford health care for themselves or their family," said Ivonne Loua, head of ALIMA's survivor care program in Guinea.

Zoonotic Bird Flu News - from 18 till 19 Mar 2017



 Third case of bird flu detected in Tennessee [Concord Register, 19 Mar 2017]

A third commercial poultry breeding operation in Tennessee has tested positive for avian flu.

State agricultural officials on Thursday said the latest chicken breeding facility to be infected is in Lincoln County, close to a farm that was diagnosed with bird flu less than two weeks ago.

Officials say the chickens at both facilities have the same strain of highly .

Lincoln County lies south of Nashville close to the Alabama state line. Another chicken breeding facility has been diagnosed with infected birds is in neighboring Giles County.

State officials said the chickens at all three facilities have been killed off.

Officials say the strains of that have sickened the Tennessee chickens do not pose a threat to the food supply.



 No need to quarantine areas with H5N1 - Dr Subramaniam [Astro Awani, 19 Mar 2017]

SEGAMAT: There is no necessity to quarantine areas found positive for H5N1 bird flu for the time being, says Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S.Subramaniam.

He said this was because there had not been any cases of H5N1 infection affecting humans and the Health Ministry was making efforts to ensure it would not happen.

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There is no necessity to quarantine areas found positive for H5N1 bird flu for the time being, says Datuk Seri Dr S.Subramaniam.

The ministry is implementing various preventive measures and giving awareness to those concerned.

"We are disseminating information on health care by putting on protective wear such as face mask, apron and gloves to ensure that those handling chicken do not come in contact with chicken fluid," he told reporters.

Earlier he attended a Segamat District Information Office dinner here with about 200 people including media personnel.

According to Kelantan Veterinary Services Department, two new locations had been found positive for H5N1 in Pasir Mas.

- BERNAMA



 Kelantan H5N1 outbreak: China slaps ban on import of M'sian bird's nest [New Straits Times Online, 19 Mar 2017]

By FAIRUZ MOHD SHAHAR

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China has imposed a temporary ban on Walet edible bird's nest from Malaysia due to the H5N1 avian flu outbreak in Kelantan. File pix by NAZRAN JAMEL.

PUTRAJAYA: China has imposed a temporary restriction on imports of raw clean Walet edible bird's nest from Malaysia, due to the H5N1 avian flu outbreak in Kelantan.

The move led the Veterinary Services Department here to send letters to the Chinese authorities explaining the situation of the disease in the country.

The department said the letters contained, among others, details on the implementation of three zoning processes to curb the spread of the disease.

It said the first zone is Infection Zone, which covers six areas in Kelantan where H5N1 has been detected: Kota Baru, Bachok, Tumpat, Pasir Mas, Pasir Puteh and Tanah Merah.

"Under the Infection Zone, the task force was mobilised immediately to catch and dispose of all poultry within a 1km radius from every infected location.

"The second zone is Control Zone, (which covers four areas in Kelantan where the virus has) yet to be detected, namely Mahang, Jeli, Kuala Krai and Gua Musang. Besut in Terengganu is also placed under this zone.

"We conduct active surveillance, including clinical observation of all poultry; and collect clocal swabs and carcass samples. These samples are sent to the Veterinary Research Institution in Ipoh to test the presence of avian influenza virus. We also monitor the movement of poultry, including enforcing roadblocks," the Department said in a statement today.

The third zone – the Free Zone – comprises other states free of the disease. The department said active surveillance and movement control of poultry are being conducted in Free Zones as a precautionary measure.

"We also explained that the chicken and duck (populations) in Kelantan only comprise 0.5 per cent of the total population nationwide. The production of commercial eggs is fully run outside Kelantan.

"(Finally), the sources of raw clean edible bird’s nest, which are meant for export, are from outside Kelantan.

"The supply sources can be traced through a system adopted by the department," it said.

The Department added that processing plants utilise the 'Heat Treatment' procedure as required by China, wherein bird’s nest products are heated to 70 degrees Celsius for 3.5 seconds.

It said the Agriculture and Agro-based Ministry secretary-general and the Department's deputy director-general will conduct a working visit to China to explain the bird flu situation and the measures being taken by local authorities.

"Through this working visit, we hope China will lift the temporary restriction and allow the importation of the bird’s nest in China," it said.

In 2016, Malaysia exported 20.15 metric tonnes of bird’s nest, worth RM134.13 million, to China.



 Veterinary Dept to explain to China actual bird flu situation in Kelantan [The Star Online, 19 Mar 2017]

PUTRAJAYA: The Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry and Veterinary Services Department (DVS) will be sending representatives to China to explain the actual situation on the bird flu outbreak in Kelantan and the measures that have been taken to tackle it.

"Hopefully, the outcome of this visit will help China withdraw its temporary ban on the export of Raw Clean Swiftlet Birds' Nest from Malaysia and to allow it to be exported to China," DVS said in a statement.

It added that following the temporary ban, the DVS had immediately sent two letters to the Chinese authorities to explain the situation.

"Among others, the letters explained that the outbreak was only limited to certain places in one state," it said.

It added that the source of Raw Clean Swiftlet Birds' Nest products for export were from swiftlet nests located outside Kelantan.

"The source of supply can be traced through a system used by the DVS," it said.

It said the processing plant also used heat treatment which met the requirements set by China during times of disease, which was to heat the products to core temperatures reaching 70 degrees Celcius and maintained for 3.5 seconds.

Last year, Malaysia exported 20.15 metric tonnes of the product worth RM134.13mil to China. - Bernama.



 Switzerland ends preventive bird flu measures [Famagusta Gazette, 19 Mar 2017]

Amid warmer temperatures and reduced avian migratory trends, Switzerland on Friday decided to put an end to precautionary measures seeking to prevent the propagation of the H5N8 bird flu strain in the country.

Coming into force on March 18, the new decision was taken given that most migratory birds have left their winter quarters and that the number of animals effected by the virus has dropped significantly across Europe, the Swiss Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) explained in a statement.

Aquatic birds infected by the H5N8 avian flu strain were first documented in Switzerland in November 2016 on Lake Constance, located in northern parts of the landlocked confederation.

According to FSVO, 121 wild birds have been tested positive since then, though productive poultry has not recorded any infections from the highly pathogenic virus.

The last time a wild bird was diagnosed to have died from the virus was on Jan. 6 this year.

The World Health Organization warned in November last year that while the transmission of the H5N8 bird flu strain to human was unlikely, it should not be completely ruled out.



 Deadly virus strain of pathogenic bird flu H5N8 found, alarm in zoo [Times of India, 19 Mar 2017]

By Syed Akbar

Deadly Zoo.jpg


HYDERABAD: In a major cause for concern, researchers have found a new strain of highly pathogenic bird flu virus H5N8 in India. It is this strain that had killed birds in Delhi and Gwalior zoos in October last year.The strain has been possibly introduced by wild birds that migrate to different parts of India from other countries during September-March. The strain of H5N8 carries two gene pools from the H5N8 viruses isolated in Russian Federation, Mongolia, Vietnam, China and Eurasia.

Bird flu in the country is normally associated with H5N1 strain of the virus. But now a newly re-assorted strain of H5N8, which has thus far been limited to other countries, has entered India. Genome analysis of the bird flu virus that killed birds in the National Zoological Park, Delhi, and Gandhi Zoological Park, Gwalior, in October 2016 has revealed that the new strain was behind the mortality .

Following the avian deaths in Delhi and Gwalior zoos, it was thought that the bird flu virus could either be H5N1 or H5N8. But now researchers reveal it is a new version of H5N8 carrying the genetic material of H5N8 viruses in other countri es. Many zoos in the country including Hyderabad, Tirupati and Visakhapatnam face the threat as the migratory season will last for a few weeks more.

The research finding by scientists from the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases, Bhopal, appeared in the latest (April 2017) issue of the Emerging Infectious Diseases, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the USA. The viruses from dead birds in Delhi and Gwalior are different from the existing strains. "They are 7:1 reassortants of H5N8 viruses isolated in May 2016 from wild birds in the Russian Federation and China. This suggests the virus has spread to India during southward winter migration of birds," the research study revealed. As part of the study , 83 samples from the dead birds waterfowl and painted stork - were collected and 20 avian influenza viruses were isolated from them.

Referring to the study , Prof Niyaz Ahmed of the department of biotechnology & bio-informatics, University of Hyderabad, points out that the strain has not caused harm to human beings thus far. " At least 24 European countries have reported H5N8 outbreaks since June 2016. Countries in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa have also reported the virus. However, none of the countries has thus far reported any human infections with this virus," he said.

He, however, adds that theoretically it is possible that some random mutations could render the virus more adaptogenic to mammalian system. Prof Niyaz Ahmad suggests that efforts to block contact of migratory birds with farmed poultry should always be in place in all seasons and situations to stop the virus.

HYDERABAD: In a major cause for concern, researchers have found a new strain of highly pathogenic bird flu virus H5N8 in India. It is this strain that had killed birds in Delhi and Gwalior zoos in October last year.The strain has been possibly introduced by wild birds that migrate to different parts of India from other countries during September-March. The strain of H5N8 carries two gene pools from the H5N8 viruses isolated in Russian Federation, Mongolia, Vietnam, China and Eurasia.

Bird flu in the country is normally associated with H5N1 strain of the virus. But now a newly re-assorted strain of H5N8, which has thus far been limited to other countries, has entered India. Genome analysis of the bird flu virus that killed birds in the National Zoological Park, Delhi, and Gandhi Zoological Park, Gwalior, in October 2016 has revealed that the new strain was behind the mortality .

Following the avian deaths in Delhi and Gwalior zoos, it was thought that the bird flu virus could either be H5N1 or H5N8. But now researchers reveal it is a new version of H5N8 carrying the genetic material of H5N8 viruses in other countri es. Many zoos in the country including Hyderabad, Tirupati and Visakhapatnam face the threat as the migratory season will last for a few weeks more.

The research finding by scientists from the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases, Bhopal, appeared in the latest (April 2017) issue of the Emerging Infectious Diseases, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the USA. The viruses from dead birds in Delhi and Gwalior are different from the existing strains. "They are 7:1 reassortants of H5N8 viruses isolated in May 2016 from wild birds in the Russian Federation and China. This suggests the virus has spread to India during southward winter migration of birds," the research study revealed. As part of the study , 83 samples from the dead birds waterfowl and painted stork - were collected and 20 avian influenza viruses were isolated from them.

Referring to the study , Prof Niyaz Ahmed of the department of biotechnology & bio-informatics, University of Hyderabad, points out that the strain has not caused harm to human beings thus far. " At least 24 European countries have reported H5N8 outbreaks since June 2016. Countries in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa have also reported the virus. However, none of the countries has thus far reported any human infections with this virus," he said.

He, however, adds that theoretically it is possible that some random mutations could render the virus more adaptogenic to mammalian system. Prof Niyaz Ahmad suggests that efforts to block contact of migratory birds with farmed poultry should always be in place in all seasons and situations to stop the virus.



 Birds, humans, the flu… [Star2.com, 19 Mar 2017]

BY DR MILTON LUM

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Bird flu in humans can be mild or severe, and the features, which are no different from that of seasonal flu, include high fever, cough, red eyes, sore throat, running or stuffy nose, and difficulty breathing. Photo: TNS

Influenza is a common infection of humans and animals.

There are three types of influenza viruses. Type A affects humans and various animals. Type B affects humans only and are the cause of seasonal epidemics. Type C affects humans and pigs, but the infections are usually mild.

There are two subtypes in type A based on two proteins on the viral surface, i.e. haemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N), and these are further divided into different strains.

Type B is not classified into subtypes, but is further broken down into lineages and strains.

Type C is not classified into subtypes.

The components of the international convention for naming influenza viruses are the antigenic type, e.g. A, B, C; the host of origin, e.g. swine, equine, chicken, etc (no host of origin for human-origin viruses); geographical origin, e.g. Taiwan, etc; strain number, e.g. 5 etc; year of isolation, e.g. 1997 etc; and for type A viruses, the haemagglutinin and neuraminidase antigen description in parentheses, e.g. H1N1, H5N1, etc.

The type A virus in animals is different from that in humans. Bird flu affects domesticated and wild birds, i.e. poultry and wild birds.

It can be mild, or severe with high death rates. The former is called low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI), and the latter, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).

The bird flu viruses have become permanent residents in the poultry population in many countries. It is rare for bird flu to affect humans. Outbreaks have led to millions of poultry infections, hundreds of human infections and many human deaths.

Human bird flu infection by HPAI A(H5N1) was first reported in Hong Kong in 1997 following an outbreak in poultry.

Since then, there have been human bird flu outbreaks in Asia, Middle East and Europe.

The LPAI A(H7N9) in humans was first reported in China in 2013. The World Health Organization announced on Feb 27 that there were reports of 460 cases and 78 deaths in humans from H7N9 from Sept 27, 2016, to Feb 27, in China, Hong Kong and Macao.

The media reported that the World Organization for Animal Health announced on March 8 that it was notified that samples taken from dead chickens in Kota Bharu tested positive for HPAI A(H5N1). The same virus sub-type was detected in Cambodia recently.

Signs and symptoms

Bird flu in humans can be mild or severe, with its incubation period, severity and outcome, dependent on the viral subtype. The features, which are no different from that of seasonal flu, include high fever, cough, red eyes, sore throat, running or stuffy nose, and difficulty breathing.

Other features include diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain, bleeding from the nose and/or gums, and chest pain.

Complications may develop in some people. They include lack of oxygen, multiple organ failure, and secondary bacterial and fungal infections.

The risk factors for serious complications include pregnancy, young children, impaired immune status and senior citizens.

The death rates for A(H5N1) and A(H7N9) infections in humans is much higher than that of seasonal influenza infections.

There are also human infections by other bird flu viral subtypes.

The A(H7N7) and A(H9N2) infections are usually mild or without symptoms. However, there has been one reported death from A(H7N7) human infection in Holland.

Human infections by swine influenza viruses are usually mild, with few hospitalisations and very few reports of deaths.

There is no curative medicine for bird flu. However, some antiviral medicines, like oseltamivir, may make the illness less severe and improve survival rates.

These medicines, which may also prevent the spread of the infection to those exposed to it, are prescribed as soon as possible in suspected cases for maximal benefit.

It is also given later in the course of the infection because of the significant mortality associated with A(H5) and A(H7N9) infections.

There is no commercially available vaccine. However, some governments have a vaccine for one type of A(H5N1) infection that could be used if there is an outbreak that spreads easily from one person to another.

Spread of infection

The majority of infected humans had close contact with infected birds or with surfaces contaminated by the birds’ saliva, mucus or droppings.

Infection can also occur by breathing in droplets or dust containing the virus.

The slaughtering, defeathering and preparation of infected poultry for consumption can also increase the risk of infection.

Reports of spread of A(H5) and A(H7N9) from one person to ano-ther are rare.

There is no evidence suggesting human transmission of the bird flu viruses through properly cooked poultry or eggs. However, there have been some reports of H5N1 cases due to food prepared from raw, contaminated poultry blood.

Most human infections with swine influenza viruses were attributed to close contact with infected pigs or visits to places where pigs are exhibited. There is limited transmission of swine influenza from one person to another.

Epidemic and pandemic potential

An epidemic is an outbreak of an infection affecting many people at the same time in one or more communities.

A pandemic is an outbreak that affects a large proportion of the world. This is usually due to a novel virus and is unpredictable.

An influenza pandemic occurs when a bird or animal virus emerges with the ability to cause sustained human-to-human transmission and the human population has little or no immunity against the virus.

There have been three influenza pandemics in the last century that killed large numbers of people.

The 1918-1919 pandemic that killed more people than World War I was due to the emergence of the novel type A(H1N1) virus.

The H2N2 virus caused the Asian flu in the late 1950s, and the H3N2 Hong Kong flu occurred in the late 1960s.

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The 1918-1919 pandemic that killed more people than World War I was due to the emergence of the novel type A(H1N1) virus. — Photo courtesy of the National Museum of Health and Medicine, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington, D.C.

The influenza virus is well known for its ability to mutate – changing in form or nature. The presence of bird flu viruses in poultry is worrisome as they commonly cause severe disease in humans and they have the potential to mutate to increase its transmission in humans.

Human-to-human transmission of bird flu is rare to date and has occurred when there has been close and prolonged contact between infected patients and caregivers. No sustained human-to-human transmission has been reported.

If the bird flu viruses adapt or acquire genes from human influenza viruses, they can cause an epidemic and/or pandemic, which would be facilitated by global travel and trade, with very little time for a public health response.

Would a bird flu pandemic occur? No one knows. However, it is a fact that the diverse bird and other animal influenza viruses have caused severe human infections and deaths. The reduction of the risk of human infection is dependent on reducing the bird flu viruses.

This means continual monitoring in animal and human populations, thorough investigation of all human infections and planning for such an emergency.

Since the A(H5) and A(H7N9) viral subtypes are persistent in some poultry populations, its control requires close co-ordination between public and animal health authorities.

More importantly, long-term governmental and societal commitment is crucial. The critical question is the country’s preparedness.

Dr Milton Lum is a past president of the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Associations and the Malaysian Medical Association. The views expressed do not represent that of organisations that the writer is associated with. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice.

Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.



 Bird Flu Scare Again In Khurda’s Keranga [Odisha Television Limited, 18 Mar 2017]

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Khurda: Bird flu scare has once again triggered panic in Khurda’s Keranga village with locals spotting several dead crows at many places in the area on Saturday, sources said.

As per reports, unusual mortality of crows and some other birds were reported from the village even as the administration had carried out extensive poultry culling and safety measures to curtail the viral disease that was reported two months ago.

Following the outbreak of avian flu, the government had issued alert while the local administration, Fisheries and Animal Resources Development Department sent infected samples for Laboratory tests.



 H5N1 detected in two more locations in Pasir Mas [Free Malaysia Online, 18 Mar 2017]

More than 500 birds and 400 eggs have been destroyed since yesterday, says Kelantan Veterinary Services Department.

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KOTA BHARU: The bird flu (H5N1) virus has been detected in two new locations since yesterday in Pasir Mas, which is experiencing an outbreak, says the Kelantan Veterinary Services Department in a statement today.

It said 10 samples were taken from two farms, following which 554 birds and 415 eggs were disposed of in the two locations. It did not name the two locations, however.

“Overall, as of March 17, the H5N1 virus has been detected on 43 premises in 28 locations in six districts, namely Kota Bharu (14 locations), Pasir Mas (six), Tumpat (three), Tanah Merah (one), Bachok (one) and Pasir Puteh (three).

“The number of disposals stands at 30,927 fowls and 11,804 eggs. A total of 3,012 samples has also been taken from 502 farms,” the statement said.

It said a task force had been mobilised to catch and dispose of all fowls within a radius of one kilometre from every location where the virus had been detected. At the same time, teams have been deployed to monitor the areas between one and 10 kilometres from each affected location.

It said the epidemic within a radius of 30km from Kampung Pulau Tebu, where six districts had been found to be affected by H5N1, was now under control.




 H5N1: Two new locations detected in Pasir Mas [Malay Mail Online, 18 Mar 2017]

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Six districts so far have been identified as affected by the recent bird flu outbreak.

KOTA BARU, March 18 — Two new locations were identified as positive for the bird flu (H5N1) epidemic in Pasir Mas since yesterday, according to the Kelantan Veterinary Services Department in a statement today.

The statement said monitoring operations involving 10 samples from two owners of the fowls had been carried out and 554 birds and 415 eggs had been disposed off at the two locations.

The statement, however, did not mention the two new locations which were positive of the epidemic.

“As a whole, up to March 17, 28 locations had been confirmed as being positive of the H5N1 virus in six districts namely Kota Baru (14 locations), Pasir Mas (six), Tumpat (three), Tanah Merah (one), Bachok (one) and Pasir Puteh (three), involving 43 premises.

“The number of disposals stood at 30,927 fowls and 11,804 eggs. A total of 3,012 samples had also been taken from 502 owners,” the statement said.

The statement also said that a task force had been mobilised immediately to catch and dispose off all fowls within a radius of one kilometre from each location found to be affected by the disease, and at the same time, monitoring teams were mobilised in areas between one and 10km radius from each location affected.

It said the epidemic was now under control within a radius of 30km from the location, Kampung Pulau Tebu involving six districts affected by H5N1. — Bernama



 One Alabama sample tests positive for avian influenza [AL.com, 18 Mar 2017]

By William Thornton

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The Avian influenza virus is harvested from a chicken egg as part of a diagnostic process in this undated U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) handout image. (Erica Spackman/USDA/Handout/File Photo)

At least one sample suspected of avian influenza in an Alabama county has tested positive for the less severe strain, according to the Alabama Department of Agriculture.

A sample collected last week from a guinea fowl at the TaCo-Bet Trade Day flea market in Scottsboro tested positive for low pathogenic H7N9 avian influenza, officials said. The sample had been sent to the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.

Alabama poultry is still under a "stop movement" order to prevent the possible spread of bird flu, which was suspected in three counties last week. A "stop movement" is a ban on bringing chickens or any type of birds together for exhibition or sale, including at regional and county fairs, festivals, swap meets, live bird markets, auctions and flea markets.

Officials are still awaiting results for tests at a breeder farm in Lauderdale County run by Aviagen, a large poultry producer with U.S. offices in Huntsville, and a backyard flock in Madison County.

State officials say this suspected strain of avian influenza does not pose a risk to the food supply, and no affected animals entered the food chain. The risk of human infection with avian influenza during poultry outbreaks is very low.

"Our department staff is diligently working to protect the health of poultry in our state," Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan said. "We are committed to protect the livelihoods of the many farmers in Alabama."

The Scottsboro location with the confirmed case is under quarantine and continued surveillance, and the guinea fowl in question have been depopulated, officials said.

In Lauderdale County, 15,000 chickens were killed to prevent the spread of bird flu. The entire backyard flock in Madison County was also depopulated at the owner's request. According to the USDA, both cases were considered presumptive low pathogenic avian influenza because neither flock showed signs of illness.

On Thursday, a commercial chicken breeding operation in Lincoln County, Tenn., tested positive for avian influenza, the third case in that state in two weeks.

Avian influenza is a catch-all phrase for respiratory viruses occurring naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide which can infect poultry and other bird and animal species, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Neither reported strain reported in the U.S. this year is the same as the bird flu currently infecting China, where 161 people have died since October 2016. Those people were mostly exposed at outdoor poultry markets, according to the CDC.



 More severe strain of bird flu wreaks havoc in China [Agriland 18 Mar 2017]

by Jim Breen

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Countries trading in Chinese poultry should step up surveillance at their own farms, markets and border checkpoints, to prevent the spread of H7N9 bird flu from China, after a more severe strain of the virus was detected in chickens, a UN agency said yesterday, March 17.

H7N9 has killed nearly 500 people across China, since it was first detected four years ago, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Chinese authorities have now reported that they’ve detected a mutation of the virus that causes severe symptoms and death in poultry – within just 48 hours of being infected.

According to news agency Reuters, the FAO says that the new strain poses a “heightened risk for farmers to lose animals and livelihoods“.

‘Highly-Pathogenic Variant’

The news agency says that the “highly-pathogenic variant” has only been reported in China’s southeastern Guangdong province. However, according to the FAO, the new strain of bird flu has raised concerns that the infection could pass from chickens to other birds, increasing the risk of it spreading across borders. This warning was echoed by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

The FAO says that the new strain, as before, has the capacity to cause severe illness in people, but the World Health Organization is reported as saying: “There is no evidence of changes in the virus’ ability to spread between humans”.

500 Human Deaths

FAO figures show that, since the virus was first identified in 2013, over 1,300 human cases have been recorded in China, resulting in close to 500 fatalities. 79 people died in January alone.

In fact, it is claimed that nearly one in three people who contract H7N9 die from it.

The FAO is quoted as saying that the recent surge in cases in parts of China means the virus has caused more reported human cases than all other types of bird flu (or avian influenza) viruses, such as H5N1 and H5N6, combined.

Zoonotic Swine Flu News - from 15 Mar 2017



 Swine flu claims 14 lives this month [NYOOOZ, 28 Mar 2017]

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Summary: The Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC) has registered about 14 deaths due to swine flu in March, as against one in February. Nashik: Swine flu continues to claim lives in the city. There were no swine flu deaths reported in January. In contrast, last year, the city had reported a total of four swine flu deaths.Six of the 14 patients, who have succumbed, were women. The meeting will be held at the city, taluka and village levels.

Nashik: Swine flu continues to claim lives in the city. The Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC) has registered about 14 deaths due to swine flu in March, as against one in February. There were no swine flu deaths reported in January.

In contrast, last year, the city had reported a total of four swine flu deaths.Six of the 14 patients, who have succumbed, were women. Four patients have died in government hospitals, while the remaining 10 in private hospitals. Health officials said three of the 14 deaths from swine flu were from the city, one from Bhagur and other 10 from other rural parts of the district.Civil surgeon Suresh Jagdale said, "The situation is worrying, but people should not panic if he or she have got swine flu as all government health facilities have treatment and medicine available.



 Swine flu cases from January to March ’17: 63 deaths in Maharashtra prompt minister to call review meeting [The Indian Express, 28 Mar 2017]

by Anuradha Mascarenhas

NIV has ruled out any major mutation of the virus and said that the antigenic drift is likely to have led to local outbreaks.

THERE HAS been a slight change in the pandemic H1N1 virus (swine flu) — an antigenic drift — according to National Institute of Virology (NIV) experts, which has been the reason for the rising cases and deaths in several southern states since January this year.

NIV has ruled out any major mutation of the virus and said that the antigenic drift is likely to have led to local outbreaks.

According to experts, the present vaccine will only partially protect people against H1N1 virus.
From January till mid-March this year, there have been reportedly over 5,000 cases and more than 125 deaths across the country. The western and southern states have been largely affected.

Maharashtra has the highest number of 63 deaths and 298 cases, prompting state Health Minister Dr Deepak Sawant to call a review meeting in Pune on Monday. Pune figures high on the list with 27 deaths followed by Nashik at 11.

Influenza virus positivity among patients was nearly 25 per cent in the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research told The Indian Express.

Till mid-March, there were more than 3,000 cases in Tamil Nadu and Telangana itself while there were 16 deaths in Telangana, 13 in Andhra Pradesh, 7 each in Karnataka and Kerala and 10 in Tamil Nadu.

Fewer number of cases have been reported in northern states although, according to Swaminathan, the H1N1 virus peaks during the winter months here.

It is for the first time since H1N1 virus (swine flu) pandemic 2009, that the long-standing California strain has been replaced by the Michigan one.

In the past eight years, flu shots around the world contained a virus that was retrieved from a sick person in California in 2009 — (early days of H1N1 ) However, in September last year, the World Health Organisation recommended changing the 2009 H1N1 component for the Southern Hemisphere’s 2017 flu vaccine.

This is the first change in the H1N1 component since the former pandemic virus became a globally circulating seasonal flu strain, said Swaminathan.

When contacted, Dr M S Chadda, Deputy Director, NIV told The Indian Express that the virus has evolved and there is a slight change — referred to as an antigenic drift.

“These are small changes in the genes of influenza viruses that happen continually over time as the virus replicates. These small genetic changes usually produce viruses that are pretty closely related to one another. The present vaccine has performed strongly against the H1N1 component. But it will now only partially protect against the virus,” Chadda said.

State surveillance officer Dr Pradip Awate said that a person infected with a particular flu virus develops antibody against that virus. As antigenic changes accumulate, the antibodies created against the older virus no longer recognises the ‘newer’ ones.

“Hence the flu vaccine composition is reviewed by the WHO each year and updated to keep up with evolving viruses,” Awate said, adding that different vaccine virus candidates are given by the WHO to manufacturers.

The first case of swine flu this year has been reported in Andhra's Narsapuram in West Godavari district on Sunday, after a 25-year-old man suffering with fever tested positive.

According to The New Indian Express, the 25-year-old had been touring Visakhapatnam and Hyderabad for about 15 days. He returned five days ago to his village, following which he was suffering with a cough and fever.

His family members reportedly took him to a private doctor for treatment, who asked them to take him to either Rajahmundry or Vijayawada, to conduct further tests.

He tested positive for the H1N1 virus.

The medical and health authorities informed people not to panic because all steps had been taken to combat the disease.

Earlier in January, Chittoor district had reported the first swine flu death of the year from Andhra. The victim had gone to Tirupati, and developed swine flu symptoms after her return.

It was also reported that nearly 14 suspected swine flu cases were reported in January alone in in Visakhapatnam.

Swine flu is a respiratory disease caused by the influenza virus, that infects the respiratory tract of pigs and results in cough, decreased appetite, nasal secretions, and listless behavior.

Swine flu viruses mutate, so that they are easily transmissible among humans.

Swine flu also known as the H1N1 virus spreads when one touches an infected surface or breathes cough and sneeze droplets in the air.

Some of the common symptoms are - cough, sore throat, and body aches. Young children, pregnant women, and older adults are more likely to develop complications.



 Swine flu patient dies at GH [The Hindu, 22 Mar 2017]

35-year-old was admitted on Monday evening
A 35-year-old man, who is suspected to have had H1N1 (swine flu), died at the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital on Monday night.

According to a hospital official, the patient, Ramesh, was admitted late on Monday after previously being treated at a private hospital. “He had pneumonia, lung infection and respiratory distress. He was critically ill and on ventilator support. He later suffered a cardiac arrest,” said the official.



 WHO report alarm: Genetic switch in deadly H1N1 virus [Times of India, 22 Mar 2017]

By Syed Akbar

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(Representative image)

HYDERABAD: It's now official. The swine flu virus (human influenza A H3N2) has undergone genetic changes during the latest flu season that began in September 2016.

Data collected by the World Health Organisation (WHO) between September 2016 and February 2017 reveals that H3N2 underwent considerable genetic diversification. Swine flu picked up in Hyderabad during November 2016 and peaked during January and February this year. It claimed about a dozen deaths in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

During the period, the 2009 pandemic swine flu strain H1N1 was overshadowed by another strain, H3N2. But while H1N1 did not show any major genetic diversification, H3N2 did exhibit changes. In fact, three types of swine flu viruses have been in circulation in India since September 2016. Two A type and one B type virus affected people. H3N2 and B type viruses were present in India this flu season. The WHO in its latest Weekly Epidemiological Record (WER) po ints out that while type B influenza viruses showed sporadic infection, type A viruses were prevalent in large number of patients. The WER said there has been an increase in human flu activity in India and other countries as compared with that of the same period last year.The good news, however, is that all the three types of viruses continue to respond to existing drugs including Tamiflu. Of the over 4000 virus samples tested by WHO, only a handful of them showed resistance to the currently administered drugs.

"The large majority of A (H3N2) viruses collected from September 2016 to February 2017 belonged to the phylogenetic clade 3C.2a and subclade 3C.2a1. There has been considerable genetic diversification of the HA gene within this clade and subclade. A small number of clade 3C.3a viruses were also detected," the WER said.

According to WHO, the antigenic characterisation of 3C.2a viruses continued to be technically difficult because many viruses did not agglutinate red blood cells in the absence or presence of the drug oseltamivir.




 Hospitals gear up to tackle swine flu [Times of India, 22 Mar 2017]

Nagpur: With 21 swine flu positive cases and one death in the last 18 days, private hospitals in the city are gearing up to tackle any situation arising out of outbreak of the disease.

On the other hand, the Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) seems to be ill-prepared.

The GMCH's infectious ward on the TB ward premises, where a swine flu section would have ideally been operated, is in a shambles. At the time of outbreak of the disease in 2015, the 10-bedded ward no. 25, known as the female ward, was converted into swine flu ward. But after the GMCH stopped receiving swine flu cases, the ward was reconverted into a female ward.

The GMCH had proposed a swine flu ward over the land besides the occupational therapy department adjacent to its main building.

However, the GMCH has not managed to complete even 50% of the construction work till date.

A source from collector office told TOI, "The District Planning Committee (DPC) had sanctioned funds worth Rs 1.90 crore, of which Rs 1.42 crore was released in the 2011-12 financial year.

The ground was built at a cost of Rs 25 lakh. The remaining funds were returned to the DPC.

The project remains incomplete and the swine flu ward could not be operated there."

Citing no swine flu positive cases at GMCH, the college plans to set up a cold ward at the existing structure this summer.

Dr V S Shahastrabhojane, head of the medicine department at GMCH, said, "Till now, the GMCH hasn't reported a single positive swine flu case, but we are prepared if such a situation arises. We have all the required staff to handle the situation. We also have enough stock of medicine to treat the patients as well as H1N1 vaccines for the hospital staff."



 Zirakpur man tests positive for swine flu [The Tribune, 22 Mar 2017]

By Satinder Pal Singh

Season’s first case; may have contracted virus during Kashmir visit

The health authorities confirmed the first case of swine flu in Zirakpur where a 46-year-old man residing at Maya Garden, Block-D, tested positive for the H1N1 virus yesterday.

According to sources, Mandeep Singh Khanna went for a general check-up at Max Hospital, Mohali, with flu-like symptoms. The hospital authorities, after examining the patient, informed the Health Department as soon as they got the swine flu test report.

Dr Shalinder Kaur, District Epidemiologist, told Chandigarh Tribune that the patient travelled to Kashmir from March 8 to 11 and chances were that he might have contracted the virus there.

She said Khanna had started getting symptoms from March 13 and got admitted to Max Hospital on March 20 where his sputum samples were sent to the PGI for testing. She said the test report of his throat swab from the PGI, which became available yesterday, had confirmed the H1N1 infection.

Khanna had reported fever and sore throat symptoms after coming back from Kashmir.

The District Epidemiologist said there were no reports throughout the city of any other patient with symptoms of the influenza. She said Tamiflu, the medicine for the flu, had been given to the patient, his family members and the treating doctors as a preventive step. The patient had also been moved to an isolation ward to check the spread of the virus, she said.

Jai Singh, Civil Surgeon, Mohali, said teams had been asked to sensitise people to the virus.



 Seven die of swine flu in Rajasthan [Hindustan Times, 22 Mar 2017]

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Students wear masks to protect themselves from H1N1 virus. (HT Photo)

Swine flu has claimed seven lives this year and according to experts it has spread due to favourable climatic conditions.

According to additional director (rural heath) Dr Aditya Atreya seven people have died in the state including a pregnant woman. The deaths were one each from Ajmer, Nagaur, Jodhpur, Pali, Barmer, Kota and Baran districts.

“The weather is suitable for the H1N1 virus to strive as humidity has been between 28% and 36%. People who have died were elderly with weak immunity, suffering from various diseases and pregnant women,” said Dr Atreya. One person had tested positive in January this year and he died, while in February six people have tested positive and two died. In March, so far 25 have tested positive and have four died, he informed.

Swine flu (H1N1 influenza virus) is a respiratory disease caused by a strain of influenza virus that usually only infects pigs. The virus can be transmitted to humans.

Dr Atreya advised that children, elderly persons and pregnant women should take special care as they are vulnerable to the virus. “If they suffer from cold and cough for more than three days, then should immediately contact a physician, who will accordingly advise further tests,” he added.

In 2016, 2,122 samples were taken between January and December and 197 had tested positive for swine flu, out of which 43 people had died.

Health minister Kali Charan Saraf said that there is no need to panic, as swine flu medicines are available at all government institutions in sufficient quantity. “Isolation wards are there at medical colleges and district hospitals and even at community health centres. Testing for H1N1 is available at all government institutions and is done free of cost. Testing kits are also available at the government health facilities,” said Saraf.



 Second swine flu death in Kota, woman succumbs to H1N1 [ETHealthworld.com, 22 Mar 2017]

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Mumtaj, hailing from Chabda town in Baran district was referred to Maharao Bheem Singh (MBS) hospital in critical condition on Sunday.

Kota: A 23-year-old pregnant woman, who had died while undergoing treatment at a government-run hospital here, has tested positive for H1N1 virus,
This is the second death due to swine flu in the Kota region this year.

Mumtaj, hailing from Chabda town in Baran district was referred to Maharao Bheem Singh (MBS) hospital in critical condition on Sunday.

She, however, died later in the day.

On yesterday, test reports confirmed that she had tested positive for swine flu virus (H1N1), said Dr Dipti Sharma, nodal medical officer at the MBS hospital.

The woman was seven months pregnant and was referred to MBS hospital in Kota from government hospital in Baran where she was admitted with fever four days ago, she added.

Two persons have died of swine flu so far this year in the region, said Dr R K Lawaniya, chief medical and health officer (CMHO), Kota.

Preventive measures following the death due to swine flu were put in place across the region, the CMHO said.



 14 die of swine flu in Maharashtra in a week, 16 on ventilator [Times of India, 20 Mar 2017]

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PUNE: As many as 14 people died of swine flu in Maharashtra last week, taking the number of swine flu casualties to 40 since January.

A sudden spurt in swine flu deaths has put health authorities on their toes as the virus has claimed 30 lives this month so far. There has also been a perceptible rise in the number of swine flu-infected patients turning critical, with 16 patients currently on ventilator support in different hospitals across the state.

Health officials said the virus has damaged the patients' lungs, resulting in respiratory distress in most cases. Most of the critical patients have a compromised immunity or delayed in taking treatment.

Pune city continues to be the epicentre of the virus activity. Of the 182 positive cases and 40 deaths in 2017, the city has recorded 86 positive cases and 15 deaths, the highest in the state. Of the 16 critical patients, 11 are undergoing treatment at hospitals in Pune.

Among other cities and districts, Pimpri Chinchwad has recorded 34 cases, followed by Aurangabad (10), Nashik (18) and Nagpur (14). Sporadic cases have been recorded in Mumbai (2) and Thane (2) as well.

Health authorities have appealed to citizens to take precautionary measures to ward off the infection.

"We have instructed health officials to intensify screening and surveillance activities. We have also asked them to vaccinate patients with underlying medical conditions against swine flu.

There is no need to panic. People should continue to take precautions in terms of basic sanitation practices like frequent hand washing, good diet and healthy habits. People with co-morbid conditions should be more vigilant," Kanchan Jagtap, joint commissioner of the state health department, told TOI.

The state health officials have intensified screening of patients having influenza-like illness. "As many as 3.87 lakh patients have been screened since January 1. Among those screened, a total of 4,124 patients, who were suspected to have contracted swine flu, were administered Tamiflu," a state health official said.

Experts have attributed the rise in cases to the huge gap in day and night temperatures. "Temperature fluctuations enable infections to enter the body easily as the body loses its ability to adapt readily to an environment that is constantly changing from being too hot to being too cold and vice-versa. And those with weak immune system or with underlying medical conditions like diabetes and hypertension develop complications," S T Pardeshi, chief of the health department at PMC, said.



 DK dist records 1st H1N1 death this yr; MRPL issues advisory [NYOOOZ, 20 Mar 2017]

Summary: Dakshina Kannada district had recorded its very first H1N1 death in March 2015 with a 62-year-old person succumbing to the flu.Meanwhile, the incidences of H1N1 are on the decline in Udupi. Udupi district surveillance officer Dr Vasudev Upadyaya said the district has reported 58 positive cases since beginning of the year. "Normally we used to see more cases during winter months, but this year, we are seeing people getting H1N1 in March also. Dr Rajesh said that the peculiar weather pattern may be one of the causes for the rise in cases. The district has recorded two deaths since January this year.

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Mangaluru: Dakshina Kannada district has recorded its first H1N1 death this year with a pregnant woman succumbing to viral pneumonia a few days ago.The woman, who was into sixth month of pregnancy, had got fever on March 8 and died three days later. Dr Rajesh, district surveillance officer, said unless patients are treated within 36 hours of initial symptoms with Tamiflu, complications or mortality rates are likely to be high, he said.Since the woman was wife of an MRPL employee, the company has issued a health advisory which delineates symptoms, warning signs and preventive measures. The advisory also suggested that vaccination to prevent H1N1 was available and those interested should get registered for vaccination.Prashanth Baliga, DGM, corporate communications, MRPL, admitted that the health advisory was issued after employees started inquiring about possible safeguards after learning about the death of the spouse of an employee.In DK District, one death and 12 positive cases have been reported since January this year out of the 62 blood samples tested for H1N1.

Dr Rajesh said that the peculiar weather pattern may be one of the causes for the rise in cases. Dakshina Kannada district had recorded its very first H1N1 death in March 2015 with a 62-year-old person succumbing to the flu.Meanwhile, the incidences of H1N1 are on the decline in Udupi. The district has recorded two deaths since January this year.



 Swine flu panic grips Rajasthan, health advisory issued [Merinews, 19 Mar 2017]

by Dr. Lalit Kishore

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In the last few months scores of people have been reported to be swine flu positive and are undergoing treatment in hospitals.

However, the figures may be high since from rural and semi-urban areas the swine flu cases go unreported. This Friday, six cases were officially reported as new cases of infected day in a single day.

The Rajasthan Health Department has issued a swine flu alert advisory to people and hospitals urging people to consult doctors if they had flu like symptoms and undergo the test for swine flu so the proper treatment could be given.

Swine influenza or swine flu infection is caused by any one of several types of swine influenza viruses known as H1N1, H1N2, H2N1, H3N1, H3N2, and H2N3. As we know that H1N2 influenza virus was found in pigs around 2000 and among humans it is marked by symptoms like chills, fever, sore throat, muscle pains, severe headache, coughing, weakness and general discomfort.

Around the mid-20th century, identification of influenza subtypes became possible, allowing accurate diagnosis of transmission to humans. One may recall that it was the year 2010 that the infection had spread in many countries.



 ‘TERROR THREAT’ BEHIND CANCELLATION OF SAUDI KING’S VISIT TO MALDIVES [The Siasat Daily, 19 Mar 2017]

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Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, attends a banquet hosted by Shinzo Abe, Japan's Prime Minister, at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, Monday, March 13, 2017. REUTERS/Tomohiro Ohsumi/Pool

Dubai [U.A.E]: The Maldives government announced that the official visit of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to Male from March 18 had been postponed because of the spread of swine flu in the archipelago nation, however, highly placed sources say the reality is the Saudi King faced terror threats following which the visit was called off.

Separately, there were other media reports that speculated the visit was cancelled due to protests by the opposition parties in Maldives against alleged plans by Maldives’ President Abdulla Yameen to sell off a chain of islands and lagoons to Mohammed bin Salman, son of King Salman and Saudi Arabia’s defence minister and deputy Crown Prince.

As per the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, the plans were to sell or lease Faafu atoll to the Saudi royal family, which would “effectively cede control of an entire atoll to a foreign government.”

The MDP expressed serious concern that if this deal went through it would allow a foreign power to control one of the country’s 26 atolls and amount to creeping colonialism by the Saudi government.

However, as per sources in the Maldives security establishment, the above two reasons are not why the visit was cancelled. Instead, serious concerns about a possible terrorist threat to the high-powered Saudi delegation during this visit to Maldives, was responsible for the visit being called off.

It is learnt that just weeks before the official visit, based on intelligence provided by Saudi agencies, a Yemeni national Yasir Yahya was arrested in the Maldives on charges of terrorism.

The Yemini national, married to a Maldivian woman, had been residing in the Maldives for more than a year and was suspected of recruiting locals to an international terrorist group. He was later deported to Saudi Arabia.

Following this arrest, it was feared that Yahya could have set up terror cells in the country that could pose a threat to King Salman and his delegation.

Saudi Arabia has been lately dealing with threats from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and most of the terror attacks in the kingdom have had direct ties to Syria and Iraq. It is also well-documented that the Maldives is fast becoming a recruiting ground for the ISIS and more than 200 youth have left the country to Syria to join the ISIS over the last few years.

The advance security team comprising of Saudi military officers, who had arrived in Male weeks before the King’s arrival in the country is said to have expressed serious doubts about the security arrangements and cover being provided by the host government, especially in the face of the imminent terror threat in the country. (ANI)



 Two more test positive for swine flu in Raj [Times of India, 19 Mar 2017]

Jaipur: Two more persons were tested positive for swine flu in the state on Saturday. Health minister Kalicharan Saraf issued directions to officials not to be complacent in dealing with swine flu's emerging threat.

Saraf on Saturday said, "In the past few days, cases of swine flu have been reported. I have given directions to officials to remain alert on swine flu and remain prepared with all medical facilities for treatment including diagnostic and treatment."

So far, 26 persons have already been tested positive for swine flu. Out of two persons tested positive, on belongs to Ajmer and the other belongs to Bhilwara. They were rushed to Jaipur's private hospital for their treatment.

In the past two days, eight cases were reported suffering from swine flu.

The officials said that they are prepared to deal with swine flu. Officials said that they have made available Tamiflu tablets in almost all the districts and also facilities have also been made available for transportation of swab samples in district hospitals, where the facilities for swine flu testing is not available. The samples are sent to government medical colleges, where the facilities for swine flu diagnostic test are available.



 BRITISH COUNCIL LIBRARY SHUT OVER H1N1 SCARE [Bangalore Mirror, 18 Mar 2017]

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The state has witnessed a sudden spurt in H1N1 cases this year with 336 persons testing positive for the disease in a week from March 9 till March 16. However, the last death due to H1N1 was recorded on March 1, taking the toll to 7, but since then, there has been no mortality.

According to data from the Karnataka health and family welfare department, the state has reported 1,207 H1N1 cases from January 1 till March 16 which is almost 10 times the total so far as compared to the 2016 figure of 110. The pre-monsoon rains have only added to the gestation period of the infection as generally, the virus tends to weaken with rise in temperature and Swine Flu is considered to be a disease of the winter.

Even the British Council library, Bengaluru, has downed its shutters after the scare and has written to its members seeking their cooperation. “There have been cases of the H1N1 virus in Bengaluru. We have had a confirmed case of H1N1 in the library and as a precautionary measure, we are closing the office for a deep clean, effective Saturday, March 18, 2017. We hope to have this completed soon and to reopen on Tuesday, March 21, 2017. If there is any delay, we will inform you,” said the notice.Official spokesperson of the British council said, “Following a confirmed case, we did an internal review and decided as a precaution to do a deep clean at our library. For privacy’s sake, we prefer not to give specifics. It is one case only. As we are aware of other cases in Bengaluru not associated with the library, we wanted to take this opportunity to do a preventive cleaning.”

“The library is closed from Saturday (March 18) to Monday (March 20) and we aim to reopen on Tuesday as usual. We will be making hand sanitizers available in the library and the washrooms. Please do use them and remain vigilant for symptoms. We will do our best to resume normal opening hours soon and we will keep you posted of any further developments,” read the directive.

According to health department officials, the rising number of such cases is a result of proper reporting and monitoring of H1N1 cases and high awareness among the people about the disease.

Experts added that people suffering from more than two days of fever are undergoing stringent medical tests to get diagnosed of H1N1, which have added to proper reporting of such cases.



 Swine flu incidence growing in Maldives : Maldivian Health officials [The Sunday Times Sri Lanka, 17 Mar 2017]

The incidence of swine flu is increasing in the Maldives amidst a seasonal spike in respiratory infections and influenza, health authorities in Maldives have revealed.

The Maldives Independent reported of 208 patients tested, 27 have tested positive so far this year, compared to 16 positive cases out of 475 influenza patients tested during the past two years.

Seeking to assuage fears and avert public panic at a press conference Monday morning, health officials stressed that the situation does not warrant emergency measures such as closing schools or issuing travel alerts.

The 27 cases are not serious or life-threatening, doctors said.

Following rumours on social media about a dangerous outbreak, the Health Protection Agency released a statement at 1:00am on Monday saying that it has found H1N1 positive cases during routine influenza surveillance and testing, the report said.

“However, this is not similar to the swine flu pandemic,” the HPA said.

The HPA explained that the H1N1 flu virus has been circulating as a normal seasonal influenza every year since the 2009 pandemic when it was a new strain. More people have since developed immunity and the virus does not spread as fast.

“As such, H1N1 is now similar to any other influenza and not any more severe or dangerous,” the HPA said.

“However, very young children, the elderly and those with certain pre-existing conditions such as lung diseases can have more severe disease or have complications when infected with any type of influenza.”

The HPA said it is working with clinicians, health facilities and other authorities to take measures for controlling the spread of influenza in line with epidemic control protocols.

The health ministry meanwhile called a press conference this morning with doctors from the government-run Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, the private ADK hospital, and the HPA.



 H1N1 in Male: SriLankan to activate safety procedures [Daily Mirror, 17 Mar 2017]

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With the outbreak of the H1N1 flu in the Maldives, the SriLankan Airline has activated Communicable Disease Procedures on its flights that are being operating in and out of Male, Srilankan Airline today said. Concerning the advice issued to the general public by the Maldives’ Health Protection Agency (HPA) has restricted the travel movements to their country. While an official said that the crew would be wearing face masks and will provide a face mask to any passenger who requests one during the flight as a safety measure. “These proactive measures have been taken in the best interest of all our passengers and crew. SriLankan Airlines regrets any inconvenience caused to its passengers during this period,” he said.



 Saudi king cancels Maldives visit over swine flu fears [Middle East Online, 17 Mar 2017]


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Saudi king currently in China

MALE - The Saudi king has cancelled a scheduled visit to the politically-troubled atoll nation of the Maldives because of an outbreak of swine flu in its capital, the government in Male announced Friday.

The Maldives was to be the final stop in the monarch's ongoing Asian tour that has already taken him to Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Japan.

Foreign Minister Mohamed Asim said a new date for King Salman's trip to the Indian Ocean archipelago would be announced later.

Dozens of people tested positive this month for the H1N1 influenza strain, also known as swine flu, Maldivian health authorities said. Two people have died so far.

The government has ordered the closure of schools in the one-square-mile (2.5-square-kilometre) capital island of Male to prevent the spread of the disease and has discouraged residents in neighbouring islets from visiting.

The country's main opposition, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), had protested the planned state visit, accusing President Abdulla Yameen of planning to sell an atoll to Saudi investors, a charge the government has denied.

"With growing public outrage and strong opposition to President Yameen's attempts to sell-off Faafu atoll to the Saudi royal family, the MDP feels that the time is not right for the royal visit," the party said in a statement.

Yameen lifted a ban on foreign ownership of real estate in 2015.

Land is scarce in the Maldives where 99.9 percent of its territory is sea and the nation's 1,192 tiny coral islands account for just 300 square kilometres (115 square miles) of land.

However, the islands are strategically located -- scattered some 800 kilometres (500 miles) across the equator -- straddling the main East-West international shipping lanes.

The country is a popular upmarket holiday destination but its image has been hit by political unrest in recent years.

Opposition leader and former president Mohamed Nasheed is currently living in exile in London after he was jailed on terror-related charges widely criticised as politically motivated.



 Saudi king postpones visit to the Maldives over swine flu [The Daily Progress, 17 Mar 2017]

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — The Maldives' government said Friday that Saudi Arabia's king has postponed an official visit because of the spread of swine flu in the archipelago nation.

King Salman was scheduled to visit the Maldives on Saturday. The president's office quoted Foreign Minister Mohamed Asim as saying that a new date will be decided later.

According to health ministry statistics, 105 people have tested positive for the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, since January and two have died in the small country of 340,000 people.

Schools and the state university have been closed to control the spread of the disease.

The 81-year-old king is making a monthlong swing through Asia. Accompanied by a 1,500-strong retinue of businessmen, princes and support staff in close to a dozen aircraft, he has already visited Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and China.

Opposition parties in the Maldives had planned protests during Salman's visit against what they said was a government plan to sell 21 tiny islands to a member of the Saudi royal family.

This story has been corrected to show that name of virus is H1N1.



 Saudi king postpones visit to Maldives over flu outbreak [Reuters, 17 Mar 2017]

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Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud waves as he attends Saudi-Japan Vision 2030 Business Forum in Tokyo, Japan, March 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Saudi Arabia's King Salman has postponed a visit to the Maldives due to an outbreak of flu, the government of the Indian Ocean archipelago said on Friday.

Salman, who is on a month-long Asian tour, was due to visit the Maldives on Saturday.

The visit "has been postponed due to the high prevalence of the flu in the Maldives," the government said in a statement, adding that a new date would be confirmed.

The Maldives has been hit by an outbreak of flu, with some cases showing signs of H1N1 influenza A, or swine flu.

The government said this month a planned multibillion dollar, Saudi-funded investment project on one of its atolls would focus on high-end tourism, and it rejected opposition claims that the islands would be sold to the government of Saudi Arabia.

Maldives former president Mohamed Nasheed's party early this month said the project would effectively give a foreign power control over Faafu atoll in a form of colonialization by Saudi Arabia. There have been public protests about the project over the suspected land sale it involves.

Despite its reputation as a tourist paradise, the largely Muslim island chain of 400,000 people is struggling with a large number of youths enlisting to fight for Islamic State in the Middle East.

The opposition says allowing Saudi influence in the country would result in more radicalization.

(Reporting by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Nick Macfie)



 Saudi King postpones state visit to Maldives over H1N1 outbreak [WION, 17 Mar 2017]

By: Umaima Rasheed Hussain

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President Yameen pictured with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud during Yameen's 2016 state visit to the Kingdom. Image source: President's Office. (Others)

The Saudi King will reschedule his visit as the influenza outbreak hits the island nation. Meanwhile, residents are also taking precautions

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has cancelled his state visit to the Maldives over the H1N1 outbreak in the island nation.

The government of Maldives announced the postponement of the Saudi king's visit in an emergency press conference held at the President's Office on Friday morning.

During the press conference, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Mohamed Asim, said that when the fresh dates are confirmed for the king's visit, it will be announced.

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz was scheduled to visit Maldives tomorrow as a last destination of his month-long Asia tour.

The monarch has already been to Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, and he is now in China. He was supposed to arrive in Maldives on Saturday, and was scheduled to spend a week in the Indian Ocean archipelago, out of which six days were planned as a holiday.

Maldives government had been preparing for the monarch's visit; Rehearsing for a red carpet welcome and conducting security drills.

Meanwhile, H1N1 influenza outbreak in the island nation has been spreading. More than 100 people have tested positive for H1N1 so far. Two people have died of the flu: A man in his twenties died early in March, while a 51-year-old woman died late Wednesday.

In the attempt to control the outbreak, schools, colleges, and universities have been shut for the time being, and the general public have been advised not to travel unless it's deemed absolutely necessary.

As pregnant women are one of the groups vulnerable to the outbreak, the government has temporarily relieved pregnant civil servants of duty as a precaution. Several independent authorities have relieved pregnant staff as well.
(WION)



 Beware of contagious H1N1 virus in air [Deccan Chronicle, 16 Mar 2017]

by ANNA SAKHI JOHN


H1N1 is generally tested in labs that have facilities for the Polimerised Chain Reaction (PCR).

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(Representational image)

Chennai: Swine flu causing Influenza virus has been one of the most portentous viruses in recent medical history challenging researchers in the laboratories and doctors at clinics while the fatality graph continues to climb.

Virologists, who have been studying H1N1, warn the public to take precautions whenever they are visiting a locality, particularly, districts with lowest minimum temperature where swine flu cases have been reported more. It may be noted that Western districts in Tamil Nadu – Coimbatore and Tirupur – have reported a maximum number of swine flu cases.

“The virus, which is known to be transmitted 20 per cent from cough droplets in the air, and 80 percent through touch, survives for around two days in high temperatures in the external environment, and for over two days on surfaces in cool places,” said Pearly Mathew, a virologist from Vellore. “It becomes extinct within a few hours in hot and dry climates. The virus may enter a human two to three days before the onset of the symptom and stay for a week or so after,” she added.

The constantly mutating, dynamic virus, which is communicable to other persons, is mainly found on surfaces where the hand usually touches; such as cash counters, seats, handrails and switches. “We have been making all efforts to create awareness on the importance of cleaning surfaces and hand washing as per the guidelines given by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC),” said Dr Kulandaisamy, director, department of public health.

Those with uncontrolled diabetes, hypertension, renal ailments and the like, are at a higher risk of developing swine flu once the influenza virus H1N1 enters their body, he added.

Declared by the World Health Organisation as a seasonal influenza, H1N1 is generally tested in labs that have facilities for the Polimerised Chain Reaction (PCR). Stating that the virus cannot be seen through a naked eye or a normal microscope, Dr R. Sundara Raman, head of the department of internal medicine, SIMS, said, “PCR is a sophisticated test which cannot be done in all labs.”

Known to cause a lot of complications in the human body, like respiratory distress and hypoxia, the disease is identified through the viral antigen. “It is found to be more active in certain parts of the state, namely Tiruvallur, Kancheepuram, Vellore, Villupuram, Trichy, Coimbatore and Tirupur, where the travel movement is more,” added Dr Kulandaisamy.

Nothing to do with 'Swine'

In 2009, a new combination - H1N1- originated in Mexico from a swine and contaminated some humans. From then onwards, it has been a human-to-human transmission. Right now, the name

Swine Flu has nothing to do with the swine. The human also has many combinations of these viruses. When they come in contact with animals, which have some sort of infection, the two viruses, will form a different combination - either in the human or the animal. Over the years, the combination has stabilised and the World Health Organisation has declared it as ‘Seasonal Influenza’.

The Sneeze Time Bomb

When an individual, with the H1N1 influenza virus, sneezes within an air conditioned room, the virus infects the entire room and stays there for hours as it is not allowed to leave the room as well as because of the low temperatures. It, therefore, spreads to others at a much faster pace than it does in warmer rooms.



 120 test flu positive in one branch of private lab [The New Indian Express, 15 Mar 2017]

CHENNAI: THE State’s health department may not have shared the data on the number of swine flu cases reported in Chennai in recent months but the statistics issued by a leading private laboratory said it confirmed 120 swine flu cases since January at its Nungambakkam branch alone.

“In January, out of 99 samples, 16 tested positive. From February 1 to March 13, out of 632 samples 104 were positive,” said Dr Anita Suryanarayanan, vice president (operations) South India and Sri Lanka, Lister Metropolis.

Lister Metropolis is one of the State-sanctioned laboratories to do the swine flu test, which is considered as conclusive proof of H1N1 virus causing swine flu.

While the laboratory officials said samples from across the State also get tested at the labs in Chennai, at least a considerable part is from Chennai. Already a few suspected swine flu deaths were reported from some parts of the State.

“In our Mumbai centre also there are many cases that tested positive for H1N1,” said Dr Anita.



 Swine flu claims 16 in Maharashtra this month [Times of India, 15 Mar 2017]

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PUNE: In a sudden rise, as many as 16 people died of swine flu in Maharashtra in the first 12 days of this month, taking the H1N1 death toll to 26 in the state this year, so far.

Besides, five swine flu patients, including three from Pune and one each from Pimpri Chinchwad and Nagpur, are in critical condition and have been put on ventilator support.

Till now, a total of 101 people have tested positive for the disease in the state, including maximum 50 from Pune city and 13 from Pimpri Chinchwad, 11 from Nashik and four each from Kolhapur and Aurangabad. Sporadic cases have also been recorded in Mumbai (2) and Vasai-Virar Municipal Corporation (1).

Of the 26 casualties, Pune city has again recorded maximum nine deaths, followed by Aurangabad city with four, Pimpri Chinchwad and Solapur with three each among others. In Pune, the state-run Sassoon hospital also recorded two deaths due to swine flu.

In view of the sudden rise in cases, health authorities have appealed to the citizens to take precautionary measures to ward off the infection.

"We have instructed health officials to intensify screening and surveillance activities. Also, we have asked them to vaccinate patients with underlying medical conditions against swine flu.

There is no need to panic. People should continue to take precautions in terms of basic sanitation practices like frequent hand washing, good diet and healthy habits. People with co-morbid conditions should be more vigilant," Kanchan Jagtap, joint commissioner, state health department, told TOI.

The state health officials have intensified screening of patients having influenza-like illness. "As many as 3.49 lakh patients have been screened since January 1, 2017. Among the screened, a total of 3,377 patients, who were suspected to have contracted swine flu, were administered Tamiflu," said a state health official.

Experts have attributed the rise in swine flu cases to huge gap in day and night temperatures.
"Temperature fluctuations enable infections to enter the body easily as the body loses its ability to adapt readily to an environment that is constantly changing from being too hot to being too cold and vice-versa. And those with weak immune system or with underlying medical conditions like diabetes and hypertension develop complications," S T Pardeshi, chief of the health department at PMC, said.



 Two test positive for swine flu [Times of India, 15 Mar 2017]

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JAIPUR: The unprecedented rainfall and hailstorm which guided mercury to take a dip have brought two fresh cases of swine flu in the state. The new cases have put health department on alert, however, they said, chances would be marginalized with increase in temperatures. So far, swine flu has already claimed four while 16 have been tested positive out of 80 samples collected so far.

There were unconfirmed reports Tuesday morning that a 34-year-old man died of swine flu at government hospital in Ajmer. However, refuting such reports, doctor Aaditya Attrey, additional director, rural health, said, "His swine flu report is negative. He was suffering from bilateral Pneumonia and also had jaundice and hence died."

Sources from medical and health department said fresh cases of swine flu are being witnessed in the state with dipping temperatures since Saturday.

"A woman, identified as Pushpa Gehlot of Jodhpur, was tested positive Saturday while a man, identified as Rajesh (34), was tested positive in Ajmer Sunday. Both are undergoing treatment at government hospitals in Jodhpur and Ajmer, respectively," said an officer.

According to data available with medical and health department, four died since January. "One person each in Nagaur, Jhunjhunu, Jaisalmer and Kota died this year so far due to swine flu.

Situation is not that alarming as out of 80 samples collected, only 16 were tested positive," said an officer.

It may be recalled that there has been a dip of almost 6 degrees Celsius in day and night temperatures which has made the conditions favourable for the H1N1 virus to spread.



 46-year-old dies of swine flu [Times of India, 15 Mar 2017]

NAGPUR: A 46-year-old woman from the city died of swine flu at a private hospital on Sunday. This was the first death of the year due to swine flu, said doctors. Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) health department said the decreased woman was Kalpana Chahale, a resident of Narendra Nagar, South-West Nagpur.

After sparing the city for over 14 months, swine flu has returned suddenly, with three from the city afflicted in the last 10 days. "With chilling nights and hot afternoons, the current weather is giving conducive atmosphere to the virus," said Dr Sunil Ghurde, medical officer (epidemic), NMC.

Coordinator medical officer (Epidemic) Dr Vijay Tiwari told TOI, "Chahale was initially admitted to Trinity Hospital, and later she was referred to KRIMS. On March 6, she was detected as positive, and she expired a week later." Tiwari said that decreased woman was also diabetic.

KRIMS hospital director Dr Ashok Arbat said, "Patients with diabetes and hypertension easily catch swine flu, so such patients with even slightest cold or cough need to immediately check with doctors."

Dr Arbat said, "March 2015 was the peak season, when we treated 217 patients. Subsequently, the virus had disappeared in 2016. But since March 2017 began, we are noticing a significant rise in patients with symptoms similar to swine flu, though they are yet to be confirmed positive. I think the patient rate is going to rise in coming days."

NMC data reveals two more patients from the city were detected positive for swine flu. One is Ganesh Mishra (60), receiving treatment at Wockhardt Hospital, and a resident of Swaraj Nagar, West Nagpur. The other is Manoj Kale (41), from Aashirwad Nagar, South Nagpur, who is being treated at Trinity Hospital. The cases were detected positive on March 3 and 7 respectively.

Apart from these three cases, there are six positive and five suspected cases of swine flu patients from surrounding districts and neighbouring states receiving treatment in the city.

Deputy director health Dr Sanjay Jaiswal informed the six patients are from Saoner, Umred, Wardha, Chandrapur, Amravati and Chhindwara.

He also pointed out, "There must be a rise in positive cases, but the death rate has reduced manifold. Because doctors are now able to diagnose the virus early, more positive cases are coming out than before. It's a positive sign as more people are able to get early treatment now-a-days."



 Six fresh cases of swine flu reported in Tgana [India Today, 15 Mar 2017]

Hyderabad, Mar 15 (PTI) Six fresh cases of swine flu have been reported in Telangana, the state government said here today.

It said 93 samples were tested yesterday and six of them have been found positive for the H1N1 virus.

No death was reported yesterday, it said.

As many as 7,496 samples were tested till yesterday since August one last year and 1,018 of them were found positive, the government said in a bulletin on swine flu.

Sufficient stock of medicines and testing kits were available in the state, it added.

Zoonotic Bird Flu News - from 17 Mar 2017



 Flu Season Again [Lancaster Farming, 17 Mar 2017]

by Dennis Larison

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Have you ever wished when flu season rolls around that you could just shut yourself in your house and not risk exposing yourself to the virus?

Unfortunately for those of us with jobs and schoolchildren, that’s just not possible. Yes, it can be tough to be human.

Were we poultry, though, things would be different. We could just safely shelter inside oblivious to the threat flying by.

And that’s just what agricultural officials would like to see happen with our flocks now that the migratory waterfowl season is upon us, raising the threat from avian flu.

“This time of year is almost the worst,” Dr. David Wolfgang, the state veterinarian for Pennsylvania, said in a phone interview this week. “There’s a lot of virus circulating around right now.”

A case in point is last week’s outbreak in Lincoln County, Tennessee, which resulted in the pre-emptive deaths of 73,500 chickens in a breeding flock that supplied Tyson Foods.

Less well-known is another outbreak in Tennessee last week, but in Giles County, some distance from and unrelated to the outbreak in Lincoln County.

Both outbreaks were of the H7N9 subtype of avian flu, but the Lincoln County outbreak was from a high-path strain, whereas the Giles County outbreak was from a low-path strain.

Low-path strains are in circulation all the time, Wolfgang said, and are hard to detect because they can infect a flock without killing the birds.

Low-path strains are almost as worrisome, though, because they can turn into a high-path strain with just a subtle change in the virus, which is likely what caused the outbreak in Lincoln County.

That’s also likely what happened with the H7N9 strain circulating in Asia right now, except that particular strain can also infect humans and has resulted in scores of people dying there.

That’s why animal-health officials are so keen on testing sick poultry, even those birds that are not dying. Poultry infected with a low-path strain of the virus also need to be eliminated to reduce the risk of the virus changing to a much more virulent form.

The worst outbreak of avian flu was the pandemic that killed as many as 100 million people in 1918, or nearly 5 percent of the world’s population.

That was an H1N1 strain, the subtype that infects swine as well as poultry and humans.

The subtypes officials are on the lookout for these days are the various H5 and H7 subtypes that are prone to changing into high-path strains in poultry, Wolfgang said.

The 2015 outbreak that resulted in the deaths of 48 million birds in the Midwest was a high-path strain of H5N2. The subtype afflicting Europe right now is H5N8.

An outbreak a little more than a year ago in Indiana was from H7N9, the same subtype of avian flu as last week’s outbreaks in Tennessee.

Waterfowl from the Mississippi flyway mingle with waterfowl from the Atlantic flyway during both the summer and winter, which means that some migrating birds in the Atlantic flyway right now could also be carrying the H7N9 subtype.

When a high-path strain of one of these subtypes surfaces, it can be economically devastating.

According to Reuters news service, South Korea has had to destroy 35 million birds infected with H5N8 and H5N6 subtypes this winter, about a fifth of its commercial poultry.

That will get rid of the virus, Wolfgang said, but it’s also threatening to strangle South Korea’s entire poultry industry.

Pennsylvania has been dealing with such threats to its poultry since an outbreak of avian flu in 1983, followed by another in 2003. But that has left the state and its producers better prepared to fend off avian flu than a lot of other areas.

“For better or worse, we had it first,” Wolfgang said. “Others have been catching up with what Pennsylvania has been doing by having surveillance in place and a more aggressive stance.”

The state routinely conducts tests on poultry looking for antibodies associated with the virus.

Although they don’t make headlines in the newspaper, those tests come up positive all the time in ducks, Wolfgang said.

Last July, for instance, a low-path strain of H5N2 was found in a commercial flock, he said. They were market age, so the producer was allowed to sell them down before cleaning and disinfecting the premises to eradicate the virus.

The ideal situation, though, is when the producer uses strenuous biosecurity measures to prevent an avian flu infection in the first place.

Ultimately, it’s measures like these that will be necessary to preserve the U.S. poultry industry and safeguard us humans as well.



 Avian influenza update: China, Alabama and Tennessee [Outbreak News Today, 17 Mar 2017]

by ROBERT HERRIMAN

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China
The China National Health and Family Planning Commission reported 21 additional human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9), including four deaths, from March 10 to 16.

The 19 male and two female patients, aged from 33 to 77, had their onset from February 28 to March 13. The cases were six cases from Guangxi, five cases in Hunan, three cases each from Guangdong and Guizhou, two cases in Henan and one case each from Jiangxi and Fujian. Among them, 18 were known to have exposure to poultry or poultry markets.

According to the Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection, 1307 cumulative human cases have been reported since 2013 as of Mar. 11.

In addition, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations said today that a resurgent outbreak of a new strain of avian influenza that can be lethal for humans underscores the need for robust and rapid detection and response systems at animal source.

The need for ongoing targeted and widespread monitoring and effective response to detections remains urgent to keep the virus from spreading beyond China’s Eastern and Southeastern regions, where it is now considered endemic.

“Considering the potential for mutation of avian influenza virus, constant surveillance by national Veterinary Services of the different strains circulating in animals in their country is essential to protect both animal and human health”, explains Matthew Stone, Deputy Director General of the OIE.

“To protect human health and people’s livelihoods, it is essential to tackle the disease at its source in poultry: efforts need to target eliminating H7N9 from affected farms and markets,” said Vincent Martin, FAO’s Representative in China.

“Targeted surveillance to detect the disease and clean infected farms and live bird markets, intervening at critical points along the poultry value chain – from farm to table – is required.

There should be incentives for everybody involved in poultry production and marketing to enforce disease control.”

Alabama

In a follow-up on the avian influenza situation in Alabama, the Alabama Department of Agriculture reported Thursday that results have been received from the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa on the sample collected from a guinea fowl at the TaCo-Bet Trade Day flea market in Scottsboro, located in Jackson County, Alabama.

The sample tested positive for low pathogenic H7N9 avian influenza (LPAI). The premises of origin for the guinea fowl, also located in Jackson County, Ala., is under quarantine and continued surveillance. The guinea fowl in question have been depopulated.

Testing is still ongoing of samples submitted to NVSL from the other two premises in north Alabama, the commercial breeder flock in Lauderdale County and the backyard flock in Madison County. Out of an abundance of caution, the company decided to depopulate the entire flock at the commercial breeder operation in Lauderdale County and the birds were properly buried on the farm. The depopulation was not required but a decision made by the poultry company. The entire backyard flock in Madison County was also depopulated at the owners request.

According to USDA, both cases are considered presumptive low pathogenic (LPAI) avian influenza because neither flock showed signs of illness.

Tennessee

In a follow-up on the avian flu situation in Tennessee, samples taken from the second flock in Lincoln County tested positive for H7N9 HPAI, prompting officials to began depopulation of the affected premises.

This particular strain of avian influenza is the same that affected a commercial chicken flock earlier this month in Lincoln County. The two premises are less than two miles apart. Due to that close proximity, operators at the second premises were closely monitoring and regularly testing poultry for signs of avian influenza. The swift detection enabled immediate response.

“Wild birds can carry this strain of avian influenza.” State Veterinarian Dr. Charles Hatcher said. “Given the close proximity of the two premises, this is not unexpected. We will continue to execute our plan, working quickly to prevent the virus from spreading further.”

On March 4, the first confirmed detection of H7N9 HPAI occurred in a commercial poultry flock in Lincoln County. On March 8, a commercial poultry flock in Giles County tested positive for H7N9 low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI). Due to the contagious nature of avian influenza and its threat to domesticated poultry, the best way to contain the virus is to depopulate affected flocks and then disinfect affected premises.



 ‘Constant surveillance’ needed to tackle resurgent outbreak of avian influenza – UN agency [UN News Centre, 17 Mar 2017]

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Veterinary efforts to contrast avian influenza strains have been bolstered across Asia. Photo: FAO/Hoang Dinh Nam

17 March 2017 – The United Nations food security agency called today for rapid detection and response systems to address a new and potentially lethal outbreak of avian influenza in China.

The H7N9 strain of avian influenza, first detected in China four years ago, has experienced resurgence since December 2016, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal health (OIE) have reported. The virus can be lethal to both humans and poultry.

"To protect human health and people's livelihoods, it is essential to tackle the disease at its source in poultry: efforts need to target eliminating H7N9 from affected farms and markets," said Vincent Martin, FAO's Representative in China.

The H7N9 strain is considered endemic in eastern and south-eastern China, and as of early March, has been estimated to be linked to more human cases of avian influenza than all other strains of avian influenza combined.

China’s Ministry of Agriculture has ordered animal husbandry, veterinary and public health officers, as well as industry and commerce authorities to take closely coordinated and timely action to control the spread of the virus. Neighbouring countries are at high risk as are all that have poultry trade connections with China.

"Targeted surveillance to detect the disease and clean infected farms and live bird markets, intervening at critical points along the poultry value chain – from farm to table – is required.

There should be incentives for everybody involved in poultry production and marketing to enforce disease control."

Surveillance of the virus had proven difficult in the past, as the virus caused mild or no illnesses in the poultry and infected chickens displayed few or no symptoms. However new evidence from China’s Guangdong Province shows the emergence of a strain which can lead to high mortality for birds within 48 hours of infection, enabling quicker detection but also potentially raising the risk of severe animal and economic losses for the poultry industry.

Matthew Stone, Deputy Director General of the OIE said, "China has been quick to notify international organizations about the virus' recent change from low to high pathogenicity in poultry. Given the continuous risk of virus change, inherent to all influenza viruses, timely sharing of surveillance results and sequence information with the international community is crucial for pandemic preparedness."

While more than 1,200 human cases of H7N9 have been reported since 2013, there is no danger of catching the disease by eating chicken. As in previous waves, most patients infected reported visiting live bird markets or had come into contact with infected birds.

“We need to understand the drivers of this disease in devising appropriate control and preventive strategies", said Dr. Juan Lubroth, FAO Chief Veterinary Officer. "These must be tailored to meet the expectations of all stakeholders involved, such as farmers, traders, transporters, market operators, government and international agencies and the consumer."



 Step up surveillance to stop bird flu spread from China: UN [Reuters, 17 Mar 2017]

By Umberto Bacchi

ROME, March 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Countries trading in Chinese poultry should step up surveillance at farms, markets and border checkpoints to prevent the spread of H7N9 bird flu from China after a more severe strain of the virus was detected in chickens, a U.N. agency said on Friday.

H7N9 has killed almost 500 people in China since it was first reported in 2013 but until recently had shown little or no clinical symptoms in birds, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

But in February Beijing reported it detected an evolution in the virus that caused severe disease and death in poultry within 48 hours of infection.

"It now goes beyond being primarily a public health concern," said FAO's veterinary epidemiologist Sophie von Dobschuetz, adding the new strain heightened the risk for farmers to lose animals and livelihoods.

The highly pathogenic variant has only been reported in China's southeastern Guangdong province and will become more apparent in some flocks if birds begin to die off, making detection and control easier, FAO said.

"The earlier you pick up the incursion of the virus the more chance you have to control it," von Dobschuetz told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

The new strain has raised concerns that the infection could pass from chickens to other birds, increasing the risk of it spreading across borders, the FAO said in joint statement with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

The FAO said the new H7N9 strain maintained its capacity to cause severe illness in people, but the World Health Organization said there was no evidence of changes in the virus' ability to spread between humans.

Von Dobschuetz said China was assessing the virus' prevalence and results were expected in the coming weeks.

Since the virus was first identified in 2013, 1,320 human cases have been recorded in China, including 492 deaths, according to FAO figures. (Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)



 UN body urges China to act as bird flu deaths spike [Phys.Org, 17 Mar 2017]

The UN's food agency on Friday urged China to step up efforts to contain and eliminate a strain of bird flu which has killed scores of people this year.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned that countries neighbouring China were at "high risk" of exposure to the H7N9 strain, which has recently mutated to become far more deadly for chicken than it had been.

The agency also warned that wild birds could carry the strain of the virus to Europe and the Americas, adding that it was baffled as to why China's efforts to contain the outbreak had not worked as well as anticipated.

The FAO's statement came after China reported last month that 79 people had died in January alone, the deadliest H7N9 outbreak since the strain first appeared in humans in 2013.
Nearly one in three people who contract H7N9 die from it.

FAO said the recent surge in cases in eastern and southern parts of China meant the virus had caused more reported human cases than all other types of avian influenza viruses, such as H5N1 and H5N6, combined.

Vincent Martin, the FAO's representative in China, said efforts to contain the outbreak needed to focus on eliminating the strain at its source.

"Targeted surveillance to detect the disease and clean infected farms and live bird markets, intervening at critical points along the poultry value chain—from farm to table—is required," he said.

"There should be incentives for everybody involved in poultry production and marketing to enforce disease control."

The agency recognised that China had invested heavily in surveillance of live bird markets and poultry farms while noting that monitoring has "proven particularly challenging as until recently (the strain) has shown no or few signs of disease in chickens."

The organisation said new evidence from Guangdong in southern China pointed to H7N9 having mutated to become much deadlier for chickens while retaining its capacity to make humans severely ill.

This could make it easier to spot outbreaks, as infected chickens are typically dying within 48 hours of infection, but it also underscores the potentially huge economic implications of the mutation, FAO said.

The FAO emphasised that there was no risk of humans catching the potentially deadly influenza strain by eating chicken.

China has suspended trade in live poultry in several cities, urged consumers to switch to frozen chicken, enforced stricter hygiene standards in fresh food markets, and culled affected flocks.

"With all the efforts taken by China and partners, there is a pressing need to understand why these measures have not worked as well as expected," the FAO said.



 Croatia reports outbreak of severe H5N5 bird flu: OIE [Reuters, 17 Mar 2017]

Croatia has reported an outbreak of severe H5N5 bird flu among poultry in the north of the country, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said on Friday, citing a report from the Croatian agriculture ministry.

The virus was detected among poultry in farms and backyards in Spickovina in the Krapinsko-Zagorska region, the Paris-based OIE said.

All 65 birds exposed to the virus died or were culled, it said.

Croatia has already detected H5N8 avian influenza, another severe strain that has swept across Europe since last year, leading to widespread slaughtering of poultry.

(Reporting by Gus Trompiz; Editing by Bate Felix)



 The Chickens’ Revenge: Bird Flu Is Back [New Matilda, 17 Mar 2017]

By Geoff Russell

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If treating animals humanely isn’t enough to motivate you, then the diseases they may give you in return should be, writes Geoff Russell.

Who remembers the 1997 bird flu panic? The H5N1 avian influenza virus gained some random mutation which allowed it to infect people as well as chickens and both started dying in Hong Kong. Luckily for us, the virus didn’t master spreading between people, you had to catch it from a chicken.

The wet markets in Hong Kong at the time were perfect for spreading the disease. A wet market is where people select birds which are killed on the spot. It’s perfect for transmission.

Lots of people in intimate contact with lots of stressed birds and bird parts; blood and guts and respiratory fluids. The stress of the situation depresses the birds’ immune systems making them more prone to getting sick and being close to people helps the disease spread.

It wasn’t just wet markets causing problems, cock fighting played a role also. Handlers like to keep their birds throats clear of mucus to aid breathing. How? They suck it out. The ingenuity of animal abusers never ceases to amaze me. Karma is a junk concept, but the deaths of some of these cock handlers, and their children, was very real.

Well, bird flu is back in the news. Not that it ever really left for those who’ve been paying attention.

This time it isn’t H5N1, but H7N9 and the meat industry is reporting that it killed some 79 people in China in February. It’s not coming from wet markets but the gigantic Chinese hen and chicken factory farming cages and sheds. The WHO is yet to confirm the deaths.

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Avian Influenza Surveillance at Bangkok’s Klongtoey Market, January 2014. (IMAGE: USAID Asia, Flickr)

But H7N9 is just one of an alphabet soup of deadly influenza viruses causing considerable grief in the global chicken industry at present. Most of them are currently only deadly to chickens, but nobody can predict virus behaviour enough to know when that will change. A modern factory chicken farm is the perfect bioreactor to breed new and deadly viral diseases and that’s exactly what they are doing.

Across the planet there are now billions of birds in close confinement and this is perfect for breeding new diseases. Caged hens for eggs are bad enough, but the chicken meat industry is even worse. The chickens grown by this industry are fundamentally Frankenstinian.

They are bred to grow like crazy for about 6 weeks; and totally incapable of living for the normal chicken lifespan of a decade or more. Less than 3 percent can walk normally by the tender age of 6 weeks, when they are killed. They are all dying well before they are hooked by the feet onto the shackling line.

And globalisation is helping to spread the pain. Greece is currently seeing its first culling of sheds hit by H5N6. This was previously only seen in Asia.

The US is being hit with a not yet fully characterised H7 virus in Tennessee. This has seen South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan all restricting imports of US egg and chicken products.

A recent review of the epidemic potential of viruses contracted from animals found 37 of concern. This was because they can already kill or cause serious disease in humans. Even single mutations can make huge differences to a virus’s impact.

Typically a virus goes from simply infecting one species to infecting another in four stages, but occasionally they just spring fully formed as an efficient killer, seemingly in one jump.

SARS did this in 2003, coming out of bats and killing 774 people in 37 countries. Many of those killed were front line doctors in close contact with patients having a new disease that took some time to understand.

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Swine Flu Inspection
Doctors testing all incoming passengers for swine flu upon arrival at Shanghai’s Pudong airport, in 2009. (IMAGE: Kyle Simourd, Flickr)

Another virus of concern is Rift Valley Fever, it killed 600 people back in 1977; other outbreaks have been less deadly. RVF is found in sheep, cattle, goats and camels in Africa, with the first and so far only outbreak outside of Africa in 2000 in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Another is MERS-CoV, which has killed 677 people during the past 4 years. Nipah comes to us courtesy of pigs and killed 100 people when it first emerged into the limelight in 1999 Malaysia.

Many of these new diseases springing from animals are a consequence of cruelty. Of 30 new infectious diseases found in the past 30 years, 70 percent come from animals. The official language talks about the human-animal interface. This is a simple euphemism for our abusive cruelty to animals.

We should treat animals humanely and not exploit them because it’s the right thing to do, but if we don’t clean up our act, there are consequences; they are already serious but have clear potential to be catastrophic.



 Tracking the spread of bird flu [MIT News, 17 Mar 2017]

by Anne Trafton

Asian flu strains can enter North America through Alaska, study finds.

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A new paper from an MIT-led team demonstrates that Alaska can offer a significant foothold for Asian flu viruses, enabling them to enter North America.

A new paper from an MIT-led team demonstrates that Alaska can offer a significant foothold for Asian flu viruses, enabling them to enter North America. The research also shows that the region serves as a fertile breeding ground for new flu strains.

In 2014 and 2015, an outbreak of H5N8, H5N1, and H5N2 influenza affected poultry farms in North America, resulting in the culling of nearly 50 million chickens and turkeys. The new study finds that an epidemic flu strain, which originated in Southeast Asia, was most likely carried into Alaska by wild migratory birds. In Alaska, the viruses mingled with local flu strains and eventually evolved into the deadly strains that spread south to poultry farms in Washington, Oregon, and California.

“We think there’s strong evidence that those viruses moved through the Bering strait through wild bird populations and began a process of evolution that ended up with them infecting poultry populations and becoming a big agricultural issue,” says Jonathan Runstadler, an assistant professor of biological engineering and comparative medicine at MIT and the senior author of the study.

The paper’s lead author is MIT postdoc Nichola Hill. Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the J. Craig Venter Institute, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the University of California at Davis also contributed to the study.

Influenza migration

Influenza strains come in many subtypes, which are classified by the structure of two proteins (abbreviated H and N) found on the surface of their viral envelope. In 1997, an outbreak of H5N1 that began in birds infected 18 people in Hong Kong and killed six of them. The virus then re-emerged in southeast Asia in the early 2000s, killing many birds and causing small pockets of human disease.

Since then, H5N1 and other H5 strains have continued to circulate in wild bird populations, raising concerns that bird flu could spread again into poultry or into humans. Part of Runstadler’s recent research has focused on trying to understand how these viruses evolve in wild bird populations, with a particular focus on Alaskan birds because many wild birds migrate from southeast Asia to Alaska.

Alaska hosts huge flocks of migratory waterbirds, such as ducks, geese, and gulls, which fly north from both Asia and southern regions of North America. “Water birds spread virus easily, and a lot of these birds migrate intercontinentally. They make a great host for influenza viruses,” Hill says.

This intermingling of birds gives flu viruses a chance to undergo a process called genetic reassortment, which allows them to develop new traits such as the ability to infect a different host. Flu viruses have eight genetic segments that are independent and unattached, and when two different viruses infect the same host, they can swap segments.

“The virus then comes out of that cell with the mixture of the two viruses,” Runstadler says.

“This reassortment seems to be a major mechanism by which the influenza virus can move between different hosts.”

Runstadler and Hill have previously shown that reassortment occurs in wild birds in Alaska during the breeding season, and that the process occurs at an even greater frequency as the birds move south. This led them to hypothesize that Alaska could be the entry point for highly pathogenic H5 viruses from Asia, and that these viruses could diversify and spread south into the United States.

The researchers got the chance to test this hypothesis after the U.S. poultry outbreak began in late 2014. The MIT team and another group from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks and the USGS had taken taken flu samples from wild birds in 2014 as part of a larger project on flu virus evolution. After the poultry outbreak began, the researchers went back to their samples to try to determine whether they were predecessors to the viruses that caused the poultry sickness.

Analyzing these sequences and comparing them with viruses taken from birds infected at lower latitudes of North America revealed that the virus had come into Alaska from southeast Asia.

Once the virus arrived in Alaska, it began swapping genes with less harmful flu viruses already present in the Alaskan wild bird population.

“As the highly pathogenic H5 virus entered into North America, along the way it reassorted with locally circulating, less pathogenic strains from North American wild birds,” Hill says. “We’ve been able to understand the trajectory of how the virus moved in and reassorted by looking at the strains that these birds in Alaska were shedding.”

This genetic reassortment allowed the flu strains to diversify in ways that made it easier for them to spread among the wild bird population and eventually infect poultry as the wild birds migrated south.

“This data is very important to our understanding of flu evolution and shows the importance of timely sampling in surveillance,” says Ralph Tripp, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine, who was not involved in the research.

“We don’t know enough”

The researchers say that the study highlights the need for surveillance of potentially dangerous flu strains that could enter through Alaska and spread south. Such strains could pose a threat to not only agricultural operations but also human heath, because viral reassortment can make it easier for the virus to spread among people.

“I think it’s fair to say that the circulation of H5 viruses anywhere is cause for concern because of the fact that the influenza virus can do this reassortment,” Runstadler says. “If one of these viruses that was circulating in North America, or one of the ones still circulating in Asia, happened to be able to infect a person who is also sick with a seasonal H1N1 virus, you’d have some concern that those viruses would reassort and you might get a novel virus produced that is able to transmit between humans and could be a public health risk.”

The researchers also plan to investigate how human activities, such as urbanization and agriculture in Alaska and elsewhere in North America might influence the flu virus’ ability to evolve and infect new hosts by changing the distribution and susceptibility of wild birds.

“Humans have used and altered landscapes that provide food sources for populations of birds, and affected migration patterns,” Runstadler says. “We don’t know enough about influenza virus to say what’s really a risk and what’s not. That’s one reason why we do what we do, to try to figure that out better.”



 Bird flu hatches on a second Tyson poultry farm [Food Dive, 17 Mar 2017]

by Keith Loria

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Dive Brief:

• A second commercial poultry flock that contracts with Tyson Foods Inc. has tested positively for avian influenza, according to Meat + Poultry.

• The birds were infected with the same strain that was reported in another chicken flock less than two miles away on March 4 — the first bird flu outbreak on a U.S. commercial poultry farm in over a year. That outbreak affected 73,500 birds, which were euthanized to try and contain the disease and keep the poultry out of the food supply.

• “All flocks located within a six-mile radius of the original farm will be tested and will not be transported unless they test negative for the virus. We don’t expect disruptions to our chicken business and plan to meet our customers’ needs," Tyson said in a company statement.

Dive Insight:

With bird flu announcements coming fast and furious these past two weeks — at least five reported incidents have been revealed in that time — consumers are sure to be worried. However, officials say that all incidents have been discovered quickly and there has been no threat to the food supply.

In response, the US Poultry & Egg Association issued a statement stressing the importance of biosecurity as an on-farm intervention to prevent the spread of bird flu.

“With this positive H7NX finding, there is an urgent need for all poultry producers to be vigilant in maintaining biosecurity on farms, particularly wild bird control at this time of year,” John
Glisson, USPOULTRY’ vice president of research programs, said in a statement on its website.

While poultry groups and state officials were caught off-guard by how quickly bird flu spread in 2015 — when the disease destroyed nearly 50 million farm birds nationwide — most poultry companies and farmers have since initiated better security measures and safety protocols into their operations.

Following this year's first report of bird flu, many of the top poultry producers were quick to respond. Reuters reported that Pilgrim’s Pride, the world’s second-largest chicken producer, “immediately activated [avian influenza] response plans and heightened on-farm biosecurity programs at all Pilgrim's facilities.” Additionally, Sanderson Farms cracked down on the movement of people and vehicles into its facilities.

It's unlikely that this wave of bird flu has passed. The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries confirmed three findings of avian influenza in poultry in north Alabama on March 15, and poultry producers should have plans in place in case of an outbreak at their facilities.



 Bird Flu Hits Another Tyson Chicken Farm In Tennessee [Huffington Post, 17 Mar 2017]

by Tom Polansek

About 55,000 birds will be euthanized.

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CHICAGO (Reuters) - Bird flu that is highly lethal to poultry has infected a second commercial chicken farm in Tennessee that supplies Tyson Foods Inc, company and state officials said on Thursday.

The finding expands an outbreak near the major chicken-producing states of Alabama and Georgia, and is the second in the type of breeder flock crucial for keeping the chicken-meat industry supplied with birds. A case of less dangerous bird flu was confirmed in Alabama on Thursday.

In Tennessee, authorities have started to cull the infected flock of 55,000 chickens in Lincoln County, to contain the highly pathogenic H7N9 flu, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The farm was in a quarantine zone established after authorities this month found the same strain of the disease in a flock of about 73,500 chickens less than 2 miles (3.2 km) away, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture said. That farm also supplied Tyson, the world’s biggest chicken company.

“I’m sure on the part of the company they’re quite concerned and going back and reviewing all of their information and data to determine how in the world this got into the buildings,” said Bret Marsh, state veterinarian in Indiana, which had the nation’s only highly pathogenic bird flu case in poultry in 2016.

The initial case in Tennessee was the nation’s first infection of highly pathogenic bird flu at a commercial operation in more than a year. Tennessee also recently detected a less-dangerous case of low-pathogenic flu in another chicken flock.

On Thursday, Alabama said the USDA confirmed a suspected case of low-pathogenic flu in a guinea fowl at a flea market as H7N9. Aviagen, the world’s largest poultry breeding company, has culled chickens in the state over concerns about the disease.

Highly pathogenic bird flu led to the deaths of about 50 million birds, mostly egg-laying hens, in the United States in 2014 and 2015.

Another widespread outbreak could represent a financial blow for poultry operators because it could kill more birds or require flocks to be culled. It also would likely trigger more import bans from trading partners, after South Korea, Japan and other countries limited imports after the first highly pathogenic case in Tennessee.

China has also been grappling with an outbreak of H7N9, which has killed 161 people since October. U.S. authorities have said that strain is genetically distinct from the H7N9 in Tennessee and that the risk of the disease spreading to people from poultry or making food unsafe is low.

Tyson said it worked with Tennessee and federal officials to quickly euthanize birds in the infected flock and did not expect disruptions to its chicken supply.

“Our business is diversified and scaled across multiple states, so we plan to meet our customers’ needs,” spokesman Worth Sparkman said.

Tyson shares fell 1.7 percent to close at $62.00 on Thursday.

The company has said it tests all the birds it owns for the virus and flocks diagnosed with highly pathogenic flu are not processed.

Wild birds can carry the disease without showing signs of sickness and transmit it to poultry through feces, feathers or other forms of contract.

(Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Matthew Lewis)



 Viewpoint: Don't lose focus of avian flu threat [Republican Eagle, 17 Mar 2017]

By Red Wing Newsroom

Viewpoint

Earlier this month, when we heard the news that a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza had been detected in chickens in Tennessee and then last week that a less pathogenic strain had been detected in Wisconsin, my mind immediately turned to the devastation Minnesota's turkey producers saw in 2015.

These news reports bring anxiety to poultry farmers and legislators as we remember the 2015 outbreak here in Minnesota that cost more than $650 million, 100 farms their livelihood, and the forced destruction of millions of birds.

The outbreaks in Tennessee and Wisconsin show that bird flu is still active and still a potential threat. In 2015 I authored legislation to provide an immediate response to the avian influenza outbreak. We're still prepared to meet the threat of an outbreak, but there have been troubling attempts to take funds from preparedness efforts and use them for other purposes, such as tax cuts. We cannot allow that to happen when an outbreak could happen at any time.

Carol Cardona, University of Minnesota avian influenza expert, reports that, "We've seen evidence, in a bird in Alaska and one in Montana, that the 2015 virus is still out there. So I know our poultry producers are on extreme alert right now."

The outbreak in Tennessee was the most dangerous category of bird flu. It is reported that it most likely started as a low pathogenic virus and evolved into the deadly, highly pathogenic form. Viruses are known to change quickly in environments like feedlots. In this case, more than 70,000 chickens were destroyed to limit the risk of spreading the disease.

Although the 2015 virus hasn't shown up in a poultry flock recently, tests in the last six months did find the bug in wild ducks in the U.S. This has been a year of elevated bird flu activity around the globe. Europe and Asia have been hard hit, with more than a hundred people in China dying from avian flu infections.

In terms of an economic contribution to the state of Minnesota, agriculture pumps $95 billion dollars annually into Minnesota's economy. The 2015 outbreak was the largest animal disease outbreak ever in the U.S. It's important to note that Minnesota first responded to this crisis with a trained incident management team from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA).

When the outbreak worsened, USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and a number of other state and federal agencies stepped up to help eradicate this highly contagious disease. Throughout the five month response, the MDA employees alone contributed 18,000 hours to the effort.

Protecting our state's agriculture sector from devastating threats and working to quickly minimize them when they do strike should be top of mind for all of us in St. Paul. Incident responders need to be ready to move at a moment's notice, and having resources available before emergencies occur is a better guarantee that our response will be quick and effective.

Following the 2015 outbreak, the legislature established the Agricultural Emergency Account to address this need and create a fund for future outbreaks. There's concern that as some legislators look to fund tax cuts they will look for places to find funds and may do away with the account and use the funds for other purposes. We know the economic toll avian influenza had on our state in 2015. And that's just one disease that struck the poultry industry.

There are numerous animal diseases and other threats that could strike any part of our agriculture industry at any time without warning. Instead of worrying if we'll have the resources to immediately address a new emergency, let's stay prepared. Agriculture touches every Minnesotan every day. We need to remember our top place in the breadbasket and do what we can to ensure the success of agriculture in Minnesota.

Rep. David Bly, DFL-Northfield, is the DFL-Lead on the Agriculture Policy Committee.



 Reinforcing control efforts amid outbreak of avian influenza in China [Thomson Reuters Foundation, 17 Mar 2017]

by UN Food and Agriculture Organisation | UN Food and Agriculture Organisation

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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17 March 2017, Rome/Paris--A resurgent outbreak of a new strain of avian influenza that can be lethal for humans underscores the need for robust and rapid detection and response systems at animal source. This would reduce the risk associated with virus spread and impacts on public health, according to Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Organisation for Animal Health.

Human cases of the H7N9 virus, first detected in China four years ago, have suddenly increased since December 2016. It is estimated, that as of early March 2017, there have been more reported human cases of influenza A (H7N9) than those caused by other types of avian influenza viruses (H5N1, H5N6, etc.) combined.

As during previous waves, most of the patients infected reported a history of visiting live bird markets or coming into contact with infected birds. Since 2013, China has invested heavily in surveillance of live bird markets and poultry farms. However the surveillance of this virus has proven particularly challenging as until recently it has shown no or few signs of disease in chickens.

"Considering the potential for mutation of avian influenza virus, constant surveillance by national Veterinary Services of the different strains circulating in animals in their country is essential to protect both animal and human health", explains Matthew Stone, Deputy Director General of the OIE.

"To protect human health and people's livelihoods, it is essential to tackle the disease at its source in poultry: efforts need to target eliminating H7N9 from affected farms and markets," said Vincent Martin, FAO's Representative in China.

"Targeted surveillance to detect the disease and clean infected farms and live bird markets, intervening at critical points along the poultry value chain - from farm to table - is required.

There should be incentives for everybody involved in poultry production and marketing to enforce disease control."

Emergence of a high-pathogenicity strain

Until recently, H7N9 has demonstrated low pathogenicity, meaning it may cause mild or no illnesses in poultry.

New evidence from China's Guangdong Province now indicates that H7N9, while retaining its capacity to also cause severe disease in humans, has shifted to high pathogenicity in poultry, a genetic change that can lead to high mortality for birds within 48 hours of infection. That may potentially make it easier to see when chickens are infected, facilitate introduction of control measures also at the farm level, but also raises the risk of severe animal and economic losses for those engaged in poultry production and sales.

"China has been quick to notify international organizations about the virus' recent change from low to high pathogenicity in poultry. Given the continuous risk of virus change, inherent to all influenza viruses, timely sharing of surveillance results and sequence information with the international community is crucial for pandemic preparedness," said Stone.

The need for ongoing targeted and widespread monitoring and effective response to detections remains urgent to keep the virus from spreading beyond China's Eastern and Southeastern regions, where it is now considered endemic. This strain of H7N9 virus has so far not been notified in poultry populations outside of China despite intensified surveillance in neighbouring countries and those at risk.

Neighbouring countries remain at high risk, and all those that have poultry trade connections - either formal or informal - to China. A further concern is the possibility that changes seen in the H7N9 virus may affect wild bird population, posing risks to their health or turn them into migratory carriers of the virus, expandingthe risk of the virus spreading further as has been seen with other avian influenza strains in faraway Europe, Africa or the Americas.

In response to the latest surge of cases, China's Ministry of Agriculture has ordered animal husbandry, veterinary and public health officers, as well as authorities in charge of industry and commerce, to take timely and closely coordinated actions so that H7N9 cases can be identified quickly and appropriate measures taken. Culling of affected flocks is required and increased hygiene at live-bird markets is being enforced. The Harbin Veterinary Research Institute, recognised by OIE and FAO as an international reference centre, which serves as the National Avian Influenza Research Laboratory and its countrywide laboratory network are closely monitoring for virus mutations and epidemic status.

Biosecurity measures and surveillance

While more than 1 200 human cases of H7N9 have been reported since 2013, there is no danger of catching the disease by eating chicken. Livelihoods reliant on poultry, however, are at serious risk due to the necessary prevention and control measures and losses are destined to increase, as chicken will be vulnerable to the emerging high-pathogenic strain.

China's Ministry of Agriculture is calling once more for improved biosecurity in markets, forbidding birds from remaining overnight to avoid accumulation of virus, enforcing market rest days, closures and regular cleaning, which is essential in responding to the disease, especially in preventing human exposure.

With all the efforts taken by China and partners, there is a pressing need to understand why these measures have not worked as well as expected and to undertake more outreach efforts to work with the poultry industry to institute safer practices, farmer registries, hygienic market practices, targeted surveillance and timely reporting.

"Following a "One Health" approach, we need to understand the drivers of this disease and in devising appropriate control and preventive strategies and longer-term management programs", said Dr Juan Lubroth, FAO Chief Veterinary Officer. "These must be tailored to meet the expectations of all stakeholders involved, such as farmers, traders, transporters, market operators, government and international agencies and the consumer."

FAO and OIE emphasize the importance of making all information from ongoing and intensified surveillance activities in China available in a timely way. Such data are essential to the coordinated global effort to understand avian influenza in all its types, as well as to gauge H7N9's potential to spread along different poultry value chains or through wild bird movement.

The two international organisations urge countries in the region to be vigilant for a potential incursion of the virus, in its low or highly pathogenic form, and are calling for urgent investment in surveillance and laboratory detection to safeguard trade, including across borders.



 Bird flu sickens shares in chicken producers [Financial Times, 17 Mar 2017]

by: Jennifer Bissell

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Shares in chicken producers were down on their cluck after a second case of the bird flu was confirmed in Tennessee.

The chicken farms, which are affiliated with Tyson Foods, are located less than two miles away apart and have begun euthanizing its chickens to prevent a the potential spread of the disease.

Shares in the company fell 2.5 per cent on Wednesday, prompting a slide rival chicken producers. Sanderson Farms fell 2.1 per cent, Pilgrim’s Pride lost 1.2 per cent and Hormel Foods, which makes processed chicken food products, retreated 1.2 per cent.

The virus, which rarely infects humans, was reported earlier this month by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, which has quarantined the area in Lincoln County. There are also reports of the virus in Alabama.

Tyson said it was coordinating with the agriculture department and USDA on a quick response. All of its flocks are located within a six-mile radius of the original farm and will “not be transported unless they test negative for the virus”. “This a bird health issue and not a food safety or human health concern,” the company said in a statement. “We don’t expect disruptions to our chicken business and plan to meet our customers’ needs.”

The outbreak was compounded by analyst downgrades on the day. Although Tyson posted strong first quarter results, investors have expressed concerns regarding an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission over alleged manipulation of a chicken pricing index. John Staszak, an Argus analyst, said there was a potential for decelerating earnings in the upcoming quarters and was concerned about recent bird flu outbreak.



 Bird Flu Hits Another Tennessee Chicken Farm Linked to Tyson [Bloomberg, 17 Mar 2017]

by Megan Durisin and Shruti Singh

• Affected farm is less than 2 miles from prior incident
• Flock contained 55,000 chickens; birds will be destroyed

A second case of bird flu in Tennessee has been reported at a chicken farm, heightening the threat from the disease in the U.S. southeast, the country’s biggest poultry region.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza -- which can be fatal to domesticated poultry -- was found at a commercial chicken-breeder farm in Lincoln County, Tennessee, the state’s agriculture department said Thursday in a statement. The case comes after a chicken farm that was less than 2 miles (3 kilometers) away had reported the deadly virus in early March, the first incident in the U.S. in more than a year. Both farms were contracted with Tyson Foods Inc., according to company spokesman Worth Sparkman.

“Given the close proximity of the two premises, this is not unexpected,” Charles Hatcher, Tennessee state veterinarian, said in the statement. “We will continue to execute our plan, working quickly to prevent the virus from spreading further.”

Shares of Tyson, the largest U.S. chicken company, dropped 1.7 percent to close at $62 in New York. The stock earlier fell as much as 3 percent, the biggest intraday decline since March 6. Rival poultry producer Sanderson Farms Inc. declined 1.6 percent and Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. slid 1 percent.

While countries across Europe and Asia are also battling with bird flu outbreaks, Brazil, the world’s leading chicken exporter, has remained free of the disease. BRF SA, the country’s largest chicken exporting company, rose as much as 4.5 percent after the news of the second Tennessee case.

55,000 Chickens

The affected flock had 55,000 chickens, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture statement. The farm has been quarantined, and the birds will be destroyed to prevent the disease’s spread. The virus reported at both farms was an H7N9 strain from North American wild-bird lineage.

Since the initial Tennessee report, South Korea banned imports of U.S. poultry and some other importing nations restricted product from the state or area affected.

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The U.S. southeast was largely spared during the last major American outbreak, which affected turkey and egg farms in the Midwest and led to the death of more than 48 million birds through mid-2015, either from infection or culling.

Bird flu “has tended to impact older birds much more heavily,” including turkeys, egg-laying hens or breeders, according to a March 6 report from Vertical Group analysts Heather Jones and Brandon Groeger. For breeding chickens, females begin laying eggs when they’re about 24 weeks of age, according to Pennsylvania State University. Chickens raised for meat are slaughtered at about seven weeks.

Breeding Farms

Both infected Tennessee farms were breeding operations.

The birds on the two Lincoln County premises were between 29 and 45 weeks old, Donna Karlsons, a spokeswoman for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said in an email. The agency doesn’t consider age to be a determinant factor in susceptibility to the virus.

Tyson doesn’t expect disruptions to its business and plans to meet customers’ needs given it has operations in multiple states, Sparkman said.

Lincoln County is near Tennessee’s border with Alabama, one of the largest U.S. chicken-producing states. Earlier this week, Alabama said it was investigating bird flu cases at three premises in the northern part of the state. One was a commercial chicken-breeding facility, while the others were at a backyard poultry flock and flea market. The three cases are confirmed or presumed to be low-pathogenic avian influenza, which typically causes only minor symptoms in poultry, the state’s agriculture department said Thursday in a statement.

A case of low-pathogenic bird flu was also found last week in a commercial chicken flock in Giles County, Tennessee.




 Avian flu continues to spread [Shelbyville Times-Gazette, 17 Mar 2017]

By JASON M. REYNOLDS

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These chicks are huddled together for warmth in their brooder. Experts urge that chicken owners restrict access to their poultry and clean all equipment to protect against the avian influenza.
T-G Photo by Jason M. Reynolds


Editor's note: This story has been updated since the print edition published to include breaking news regarding the avian flu in Lincoln County, Tennessee.

The chicken industry continues to grapple with ongoing concerns with avian influenza.

The Tennessee state veterinarian confirms that a strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has sickened a second commercial chicken breeder flock within the existing controlled quarantined zone in Lincoln County, Tennessee.

Samples taken from the flock tested positive for avian influenza, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture reported. Following federal laboratory confirmation of H7N9 HPAI, officials began depopulation of the affected premises.

This particular strain of avian influenza is the same that affected a commercial chicken flock earlier this month in Lincoln County. The two premises are less than two miles apart. Due to that close proximity, operators at the second premises were closely monitoring and regularly testing poultry for signs of avian influenza. The swift detection enabled immediate response.

The Tennessee state veterinarian has asked chicken owners to avoid transporting their birds (such as to shows) or commingling birds.

Meanwhile, the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries is investigating three possible cases of avian influenza in the northern part of the state, The Associated Press reported. At a news conference Tuesday, Agriculture and Industries Commissioner John McMillan said the findings are in poultry in Jackson, Lauderdale and Madison counties. Dr. Tony Frazier, Alabama's state veterinarian, also issued a stop-movement order for certain poultry in the state.

Results not back

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service was still checking into the reports as of press time.

"We have two presumptive LPAI (low pathogenicity avian influenza) cases and they are not confirmed yet," APHIS public affairs specialist Donna Karlsons said.

The National Veterinary Services Laboratories is conducting testing, Karlsons said, and the USDA is awaiting those results.

One of the avian flu investigations involves chickens at a commercial breeder in Lauderdale County, Alabama, The AP said, but significant deaths weren't reported. Another is a backyard flock in Madison County. The most recent investigation began Sunday after USDA poultry technicians collected samples at the TaCo-Bet Trade Day flea market in Scottsboro in Jackson County.
Earlier case hits nearby

The Alabama cases followed two Tennessee outbreaks. The USDA confirmed on March 6 that an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza had been detected in a Tyson Foods flock in Lincoln County (the first of two outbreaks in that county). A total of 73,500 chickens were destroyed.

Last week, Tennessee officials confirmed a second commercial chicken-breeding operation had tested positive for the avian flu. That facility was in Giles County.

The USDA calls a 2015 outbreak the largest animal health emergency in U.S. history, The AP said. It cost farmers nearly 50 million birds before it burned out in June 2015. Iowa, the country's top egg producer, and Minnesota, the No. 1 turkey producer, were by far the hardest hit.

Take precautions

John Teague, Bedford County UT/TSU agriculture extension agent, maintains a website with poultry care tips and information on preventing avian influenza. He wrote a column in Wednesday's Times-Gazette saying that the Lincoln and Giles County strains were related and both originated from wild fowl. The method of introduction is still being investigated.
Teague's website is at extension.tennessee.edu/Bedford/Pages/Poultry.aspx. Tips to keep poultry safe include:

* Keep your distance: Restrict access to your property and your birds. Consider fencing off the area where you keep your birds and make a barrier area if possible. Allow only people who take care of your birds to come into contact with them. If visitors have birds of their own, do not let them near your birds. Game birds and migratory waterfowl should not have contact with your flock because they are carriers of avian influenza.

* Keep it clean: Wear clean clothes, scrub your shoes with disinfectant, and wash your hands thoroughly before entering your bird area. Clean cages and change food and water daily. Clean and disinfect equipment that comes in contact with your birds or their droppings, including cages and tools. Remove manure before disinfecting. Properly dispose of dead birds.



 USDA confirms second case of highly pathogenic avian influenza in a commercial flock in Lincoln County, Tennessee [High Plains Journal, 17 Mar 2017]


The United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has confirmed a second case of highly pathogenic H7N9 avian influenza in a commercial breeder flock in Lincoln County, Tennessee. This H7N9 strain is of North American wild bird lineage and is the same strain of avian influenza that was previously confirmed in Tennessee. It is NOT the same as the China H7N9 virus that has impacted poultry and infected humans in Asia. The flock of 55,000 chickens is located in the Mississippi flyway, within three kilometers of the first Tennessee case.

Samples from the affected flock, which displayed signs of illness and experienced increased mortality, were tested at Tennessee’s Kord Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory and confirmed at the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa.

USDA is working with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture on the joint incident response.

State officials quarantined the affected premises, and depopulation has begun. Federal and State partners will conduct surveillance and testing of commercial and backyard poultry within a 10 kilometer (6.2 mile) radius of the site.

The United States has the strongest AI surveillance program in the world, and USDA works with its partners to actively look for the disease in commercial poultry operations, live bird markets and in migratory wild bird populations.

USDA will be informing the World Organization for Animal Health as well as international trading partners of this finding. USDA also continues to communicate with trading partners to encourage adherence to OIE standards and minimize trade impacts.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is working directly with poultry workers at the affected facilities to ensure that they are taking the proper precautions to prevent illness and contain disease spread. As a reminder, the proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F kills bacteria and viruses.

Wild waterfowl are natural hosts for avian influenza, including H5 and H7, and can shed the virus without appearing sick. These low pathogenic viruses can mutate to highly pathogenic forms after introduction to poultry. People should avoid contact with sick/dead poultry or wildlife. If contact occurs, wash your hands with soap and water and change clothing before having any contact with healthy domestic poultry and birds.

Zoonotic Bird Flu News - from 15 till 16 Mar 2017



 H7N9 infections continue to climb in China [CIDRAP, 17 Mar 2017]

by Lisa Schnirring

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A surge of H7N9 avian flu activity in China that began in December shows no sign of tailing off, with 61 new cases reported last week, pushing the mainland's total to at least 419 cases—100 more than the previous high reported during the second wave in 2013-14.

Recent cases in 10 provinces

The latest numbers are from an update today from Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection (CHP) covering mainland cases reported from Feb 6 to Feb 12. The pace of cases reported for February so far puts the month on track to top the high number of cases seen in January.

The CHP said the 61 newest cases were reported from 10 of China's provinces, about half of them reported from Hubei, Zhejiang, and Jiangsu. Illness onsets range from Jan 6 to Feb 8.

Patient ages range from 22 to 85 years, and investigations so far reveal that 25 patients had been exposed to poultry or live-poultry markets before they became ill.

A spokesman for the CHP said in the statement that the number of cases in this wave are much higher than the same time last winter. "This shows that the situation is abnormal." The CHP said the big rise in H7N9 cases in the mainland has also resulted in imported cases detected in Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan.

Yesterday Hong Kong officials met to discuss the global avian flu situation, including bird outbreaks involving the H5N6 and H5N8 strains, and plans to enhance precautions in Hong Kong.

In a statement, the CHP said it will send letters to doctors urging them to be alert for avian flu illnesses in humans. Other steps include thermal imaging at boundary checkpoints to detect fevers in inbound travelers and the activation of an electronic portal to help with early identification, testing, and notification.

Poultry testing, market closures

Chinese researchers have said that increased levels of H7N9 in poultry are likely driving the increase in human cases. Unlike other avian flu strains that cause disease in humans, H7N9 is a low-pathogenic strain in poultry, and infected birds don't usually show signs of illness.

An update yesterday from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) provided a glimpse of recent poultry test findings, as well as an update on poultry market closures—a tactic used to stem past outbreaks.

The FAO said the Chinese agriculture ministry, as part of January surveillance, collected about 102,000 blood samples and about 55,000 virus swabs from birds at about 6,600 locations across 26 provinces. Twenty-six swabs tested positive for H7N9, most of them samples from market poultry in four provinces: Guangdong, Guizhou, Hunan, and Jiangsu. Serum sampling yielded 33 H7-positives from Guangdong and Shandong provinces.

Testing by provincial officials has also turned up positive tests that led to poultry market closures in cities in Guangdong and Hunan. After four human cases were detected in Sichuan province, authorities in one city shuttered 280 live-market stalls. On Feb 11, officials in Zhejiang province closed all poultry markets until further notice.



 Detailing recent H7N9 cases, WHO notes 3 clusters [CIDRAP, 16 Mar 2017]

by Lisa Schnirring

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Ben Piven / Flickr cc

The World Health Organization (WHO) in two new reports weighed in on 84 recently reported H7N9 avian influenza infections reported by China, including a recent imported case from Hong Kong, noting three possible human-to-human illness clusters.

In the overviews, posted yesterday and today, the WHO covered cases reported between Feb 24 and Mar 10. China is experiencing its fifth and biggest wave of H7N9 activity, which surged dramatically in December and peaked in February.

Though cases are starting to decline, China continues to report new infections, such as a case from the city of Chongqing reported today by Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection (CHP).
Clusters include family members, hospital patient

Of the 84 patients noted in the WHO updates, illness onsets ranged from Feb 24 to Mar 4.

Fourteen deaths were reported, and for patients with available clinical information, 60 have pneumonia or severe pneumonia. One had a mild infection.

Sixty-five patients had exposure to poultry or live-poultry markets, and six had no known poultry exposure. Investigations are still under way for how 10 of the patients were exposed to the virus.

Of the three clusters, two involve people from Anhui province. One cluster of three patients includes a 29-year-old man who had been exposed to live poultry and was hospitalized for a severe pneumonia. His 58-year-old father who helped care for the man also got sick but had also been exposed to live poultry. The cluster also includes a 62-year-old woman who was in the same hospital ward as the younger man and who died from her illness.

The second cluster includes a 60-year-old grandfather and his 10-year-old grandson, both of whom had also been exposed to live poultry. The grandfather died from his illness.

The third cluster involves a 40-year-old man from Jiangsu province and his 63-year-old mother who works as a poultry in Zhejiang province. Both had been exposed to poultry before they became ill, but the mother also had contact with her son, raising the possibility of human-to-human spread.

The WHO has noted that small clusters for which human-to-human transmission can't be ruled out have been reported before, even in patients on the same hospital ward, there's still no evidence that H7N9 has gained the capacity for sustained spread and that the likelihood of further community spread is considered low.

New case in southwestern China

In a separate report today, Hong Kong's CHP, citing mainland officials, said a second case has been reported in Chongqing, a municipality in southwestern China. The patient is a 43-year-old man from Fengjie County, the same area where the city's first case was reported last week.

The man had contact with poultry before he became ill and is receiving treatment in the hospital.

It's unclear exactly how many cases have been reported in China's fifth wave, but it is more than 500.

In its update today the WHO said since the virus was first detected in humans in 2013, the agency has received reports of 1,307 confirmed cases. Almost all are from China or have links to China.



 TN Department Of Agriculture Confirms Another Case Of Avian Flu In Tennessee [Local Memphis, 16 Mar 2017]

By: Kim Chaney

Local in Tennessee_1488157955615_17727655_ver1.0_640_360.jpg
 (TN DEPT OF AGRICULTURE NEWS RELEASE) - The state veterinarian confirms that a strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has sickened a second commercial chicken breeder flock within the existing controlled quarantined zone in Lincoln County, Tenn.

On March 14, samples taken from the flock tested positive for avian influenza. Following federal laboratory confirmation of H7N9 HPAI, officials began depopulation of the affected premises.

This particular strain of avian influenza is the same that affected a commercial chicken flock earlier this month in Lincoln County. The two premises are less than two miles apart. Due to that close proximity, operators at the second premises were closely monitoring and regularly testing poultry for signs of avian influenza. The swift detection enabled immediate response.

“Wild birds can carry this strain of avian influenza.” State Veterinarian Dr. Charles Hatcher said. “Given the close proximity of the two premises, this is not unexpected. We will continue to execute our plan, working quickly to prevent the virus from spreading further.”

On March 4, the first confirmed detection of H7N9 HPAI occurred in a commercial poultry flock in Lincoln County. On March 8, a commercial poultry flock in Giles County tested positive for H7N9 low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI). Due to the contagious nature of avian influenza and its threat to domesticated poultry, the best way to contain the virus is to depopulate affected flocks and then disinfect affected premises.

Neither HPAI nor LPAI pose a risk to the food supply. No affected animals entered the food chain. Furthermore, the Tennessee Department of Health confirms that the risk of a human becoming ill with avian influenza during poultry illness incidents is very low. This virus is not the same as the China H7N9 virus affecting Asia and is genetically distinct.

The primary difference between LPAI and HPAI is mortality rate in domesticated poultry. A slight change to the viral structure can make a virus deadly for birds. Avian influenza virus strains often occur naturally in wild migratory birds without causing illness in those birds. With LPAI, domesticated chickens and turkeys may show little or no signs of illness. However, HPAI is often fatal for domesticated poultry.

State and federal officials continue to monitor and test poultry located in the areas immediately surrounding the three affected premises. No other flocks have shown signs of illness.

The state veterinarian has issued a poultry health advisory for Tennessee and recommends the following:

・Closely observe your poultry flock.

・Report a sudden increase in the number of sick birds or bird deaths to the state veterinarian’s office at 615- 837-5120 and/or USDA at 1-866-536-7593.

・Avoid transporting or commingling birds.

・Avoid poultry exhibitions, shows or sales.

・Prevent contact with wild birds.

・Practice good biosecurity http://healthybirds.aphis.usda.gov/ with your poultry.

・Enroll in the National Poultry Improvement Plan www.poultryimprovement.org.

・Follow Tennessee’s avian influenza updates and access resources for producers and consumers at http://www.tn.gov/agriculture/article/ag-businesses-avianinfluenza.

The state veterinarian and staff are focused on animal health and disease prevention. Each year, the Kord Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory tests approximately 22,000 samples from poultry for avian influenza. Since March 3, the lab has tested more than 1,500 samples.



 Second Case Of Avian Flu Found In Lincoln County [NewsChannel5.com, 16 Mar 2017]

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A second case of highly pathogenic avian influenza has been detected in Lincoln County.

The Department of Agriculture said Thursday that a second commercial chicken breeder flock has been sickened in Lincoln County.

In early-March, a strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza, also known as HPAI, caused a commercial chicken breeder flock in the same area to become sick.

The state veterinarian confirmed this second flock was sickened within the existing controlled quarantined zone. The two areas are less than two miles apart.

Ag officials said operators at the second premises were closely monitoring and regularly testing poultry for signs of avian influenza.

“Wild birds can carry this strain of avian influenza.” State Veterinarian Dr. Charles Hatcher said.

“Given the close proximity of the two premises, this is not unexpected. We will continue to execute our plan, working quickly to prevent the virus from spreading further.”

Officials said neither HPAI nor LPAI pose a risk to the food supply. No affected animals entered the food chain.



 Bird flu hits another U.S. farm that supplies Tyson Foods [Reuters, 16 Mar 2017]

By Tom Polansek

Bird flu that is highly lethal to poultry has infected a second commercial chicken farm in Tennessee that supplies Tyson Foods Inc, company and state officials said on Thursday.

The finding expands an outbreak near the major chicken-producing states of Alabama and Georgia, and is the second in the type of breeder flock crucial for keeping the chicken-meat industry supplied with birds. A case of less dangerous bird flu was confirmed in Alabama on Thursday.

In Tennessee, authorities have started to cull the infected flock of 55,000 chickens in Lincoln County, to contain the highly pathogenic H7N9 flu, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The farm was in a quarantine zone established after authorities this month found the same strain of the disease in a flock of about 73,500 chickens less than 2 miles (3.2 km) away, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture said. That farm also supplied Tyson, the world's biggest chicken company.

"I'm sure on the part of the company they're quite concerned and going back and reviewing all of their information and data to determine how in the world this got into the buildings," said Bret Marsh, state veterinarian in Indiana, which had the nation's only highly pathogenic bird flu case in poultry in 2016.

The initial case in Tennessee was the nation's first infection of highly pathogenic bird flu at a commercial operation in more than a year. Tennessee also recently detected a less-dangerous case of low-pathogenic flu in another chicken flock.

On Thursday, Alabama said the USDA confirmed a suspected case of low-pathogenic flu in a guinea fowl at a flea market as H7N9. Aviagen, the world's largest poultry breeding company, has culled chickens in the state over concerns about the disease.

Highly pathogenic bird flu led to the deaths of about 50 million birds, mostly egg-laying hens, in the United States in 2014 and 2015.

Another widespread outbreak could represent a financial blow for poultry operators because it could kill more birds or require flocks to be culled. It also would likely trigger more import bans from trading partners, after South Korea, Japan and other countries limited imports after the first highly pathogenic case in Tennessee.

China has also been grappling with an outbreak of H7N9, which has killed 161 people since October. U.S. authorities have said that strain is genetically distinct from the H7N9 in Tennessee and that the risk of the disease spreading to people from poultry or making food unsafe is low.

Tyson said it worked with Tennessee and federal officials to quickly euthanize birds in the infected flock and did not expect disruptions to its chicken supply.

"Our business is diversified and scaled across multiple states, so we plan to meet our customers’ needs," spokesman Worth Sparkman said.

Tyson shares fell 1.7 percent to close at $62.00 on Thursday.

The company has said it tests all the birds it owns for the virus and flocks diagnosed with highly pathogenic flu are not processed.

Wild birds can carry the disease without showing signs of sickness and transmit it to poultry through feces, feathers or other forms of contract.

(Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Matthew Lewis)



 Volunteers Needed for Medical Study in Bird Flu Vaccine [CBS St. Louis, 16 Mar 2017]

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(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Saint Louis University researchers study a possible avian flu vaccine.

“We are studying a vaccine to protect against bird flu, also known as avian flu, in case there is an outbreak or a possible pandemic in humans,” says clinical director for SLU’s Center for Vaccine Development, Dr. Sharon Frey

100 volunteers are still needed for this study. People can get avian flu thru close contact with birds, most commonly poultry, in open markets. Such transmission is seen most often in parts of Asia and Europe but a flock of chickens in Tennessee recently were infected and the entire flock of 74 thousand birds had to be killed.



 Third case of bird flu found in Tennessee chicken plant [AL.com, 16 Mar 2017]

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State officials say they may have found bird flu in three north Alabama chicken houses. This file image shows commercial chickens in their houses, and raising them is Alabama's No. 1 agricultural product. (Photo courtesy AL.com news partner WHNT News 19)

A third commercial poultry breeding operation in Tennessee has tested positive for avian flu.

State agricultural officials on Thursday said the latest chicken breeding facility to be infected is in Lincoln County, close to a farm that was diagnosed with bird flu less than two weeks ago.

Officials say the chickens at both facilities have the same strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza.

Lincoln County lies south of Nashville close to the Alabama state line. Another chicken breeding facility has been diagnosed with infected birds is in neighboring Giles County.

State officials said the chickens at all three facilities have been killed off.

Officials say the strains of bird flu that have sickened the Tennessee chickens do not pose a threat to the food supply.



 Avian flu threat closes poultry shows and sales in Alabama [AL.com, 16 Mar 2017]

BY LEE ROOP

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Until further notice in Alabama, bringing chickens or any type of birds together for exhibition or sale is banned, including at regional and county fairs, festivals, swap meets, live bird markets, auctions and flea markets.

State agriculture officials issued that "stop movement" Wednesday as the investigation continues into three suspected cases of avian flu in the northern part of the state. The order is designed to keep the flu from spreading.

"There is no risk for people," a state spokeswoman said. "This is different from the strain in Asia, and there is no evidence it spreads to people."

The Alabama cases followed, but were not directly related to, the first confirmed cases this year of "highly pathogenic" avian flu just north of the Tennessee line. More than 70,000 chickens were killed at a breeder farm in Lincoln County as a precaution in that case confirmed March 5 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A 10-kilometer "control zone" was established around the Lincoln County farm, and Alabama agriculture agents checked all chickens twice in the parts of the zone entering Alabama. "Our people went door to door," Alabama agriculture department spokeswoman Amy Belcher said Wednesday. No disease was found, and no further disease has been found in Tennessee.

Aviagen case

The three cases being followed in Alabama outside the control zone include a breeder farm in Lauderdale County run by Aviagen, a large poultry producer with U.S. offices in Huntsville. The company killed 15,000 chickens there after finding antibodies for the avian flu, according to Alabama State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Frazier.

"There was no evidence of clinical disease in this flock," Aviagen marketing director Marla Robinson said in a statement. "Production parameters were all within normal range, and there were no clinical signs of respiratory disease."

"Aviagen immediately implemented additional risk mitigation biosecurity protocols including movement restrictions put in place on the farm," Robinson said. "All eggs which were collected from that farm in the production system were traced and removed. The flock was humanely euthanized and disposed according to regulatory guidelines."

Madison County farm

In addition to the Aviagen case, samples were also taken from a backyard flock in Madison County and the TaCo-Bet Trade Day flea market in Scottsboro in Jackson County. The spread of chickens due to the growing popularity of backyard flocks partly explains the need for a statewide ban on bird movement until the situation is clarified, officials said. Backyard farmers are also advised not to add birds to their flock at this time.

Large-scale commercial poultry is Alabama's largest crop and a $15 billion annual business. The state is the country's second-largest producer of broilers (chickens bred and raised for meat), and poultry operations employ 85,000 people. The top producing counties are Cullman, Dekalb and Marshal.

Chickens in large commercial operations are already tested weekly for avian flu, Belcher said.

Chicken and eggs from these producers are safe, state poultry scientist Dr. Joseph Hess said Tuesday. Hess also said the outbreak shouldn't affect price or availability of poultry.

Migratory birds

"We know migratory birds are carrying this," Auburn University poultry science professor Ken Macklin said of the avian flu on Tuesday.

Samples from the three Alabama cases were sent to federal laboratories for further testing. Results of those tests will be made public as soon as they are received, Belcher said.



 Human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus – China [World Health Organization, 15 Mar 2017]

Between 24 February and 7 March 2017, a total of 58 additional laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection have been reported to WHO from mainland China and China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR).

On 24 February 2017, the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China (NHFPC) notified WHO of 35 additional laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus. On 3 March 2017, the NHFPC notified WHO of 22 additional laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus. On 7 March 2017, the Department of Health, China, Hong Kong SAR confirmed a case of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus.

Details of the cases

Between 24 February and 3 March 2017, the NHFPC reported a total of 57 human cases of infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus. Onset dates of the cases ranged from 26 January to 27 February 2017. Of these 57 cases, 13 were female. Cases range in age from 4 to 81 years and the median age is 56 years. The cases are reported from Anhui (9), Beijing (1), Fujian (1), Guangdong (11), Guangxi (4), Guizhou (2), Henan (3), Hunan (3), Hubei (2), Jiangsu (7), Jiangxi (4), Shandong (2), Shanghai (1), Sichuan (2), and Zhejiang (5).

At the time of notification, there were 11 deaths, and 39 cases diagnosed as either pneumonia (7) or severe pneumonia (32). One case has mild symptoms. The clinical presentations of the other six (6) cases are not available at this time. Forty-three cases are reported to have had exposure to poultry or live poultry market, four (4) cases have possibility of human to human transmission (among them, two cases also had exposure history to poultry or live poultry market), four (4) had no exposure to poultry and for eight (8) the possible exposures are unknown or under investigation.

On 24 February 2017, two clusters of possible human to human transmission were reported.

First cluster:

• A 40-year-old male from Jiangsu Province, and relative of the 63-year old female described below. He had symptom onset on 26 January 2017 and was admitted to hospital. He bought a live chicken on 24 January 2017.

• A 63-year-old female from Zhejiang Province. She had symptom onset on 10 February 2017, and was admitted to hospital for pneumonia. She had exposure to domestic poultry (farmer by trade) and contact with her son.

All 21 contacts of these 2 cases were healthy and did not develop any symptoms.

Second cluster

・A 29-year-old male from Anhui Province. He had symptom onset on 3 February 2017, and was admitted to hospital for severe pneumonia. He had exposure to live poultry before onset of disease.

・A 62-year-old female from Anhui Province. She was admitted to the same hospital as the 29-year old male case mentioned above for chronic cough. She had been on the same ward for one day. After initial improvement her condition worsened and she passed away on 16 February 2017.

・A 58-year-old male from Anhui Province, the father of the 29-year-old male case mentioned above. He had symptom onset on 17 February 2017 and was admitted to hospital. He had exposure to live poultry on 31 January 2017 but took also care for his sick son.
All 32 contacts of these 3 cases were healthy and did not develop any symptoms.

On 3 March 2017, one cluster of possible human to human transmission was reported.

・A 60-year-old male from Anhui Province, and grandfather of the 10-year-old male described below. He had symptoms onset on 24 February 2017 and was admitted to a hospital on 25 February 2017. He passed away on 1 March. He had exposure to live poultry.

・A 10-year-old male from Anhui Province. He had symptoms onset on 27 February 2017, and was admitted to hospital on 1 March 2017 for pneumonia. He also had a history of exposure to live poultry.

On 7 March 2017, the Department of Health, China, Hong Kong SAR confirmed a case of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus in a 76-year-old man with underlying illnesses. The patient travelled to Fuzhou, Fujian between 11 February and 1 March 2017 and he visited a wet market there.

He developed symptoms on 3 March 2017. His nasopharyngeal aspirate specimen tested positive for avian influenza A(H7N9) on 7 March 2017. His clinical diagnosis is pneumonia and he is now in a critical condition. The patient’s close contact has remained asymptomatic so far and has been put under medical surveillance. Tracing of his other contacts in China, Hong Kong SAR is underway.

To date, a total of 1281 laboratory-confirmed human infections with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus have been reported through IHR notification since early 2013.

Public health response

Considering the increase in the number of human infections with avian influenza A(H7N9) since December 2016, the Chinese government has enhanced measures such as:

・The NHFPC strengthened epidemic surveillance, conducted timely risk assessment and analysed the information for any changes in epidemiology.

・The NHPFC requested local NHFPCs to implement effective control measures on the source of outbreaks and to minimize the number of affected people.
Strengthened early diagnosis and early treatment, treatment of severe cases to reduce occurrence of severe cases and deaths.

・Further enhanced medical treatment.

・Joint investigation teams between NHFPC and Ministries of Agriculture, Industry and Commerce visited Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui and Guangdong provinces where more cases occurred for joint supervision, inspection and guidance on local surveillance, medical treatment, prevention and control and to promote control measures with a focus on live poultry market management and cross-regional transportation.

・Relevant prefectures in Jiangsu province have closed live poultry markets in late December 2016 and Zhejiang, Guangdong and Anhui provinces have strengthened live poultry market regulations.

・Conducted public risk communication and shared information with the public.
The Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health in China, Hong Kong SAR has taken the following measures:

・Urged the public to maintain strict personal, food and environmental hygiene both locally and during travel.

・Issued an alert to doctors, hospitals, schools and institutions of the latest situation.

WHO risk assessment

The number of human cases with onset from 1 October 2016 is greater than the total numbers of human cases in earlier waves.

Human infections with the avian influenza A(H7N9) virus remain unusual. Close observation of the epidemiological situation and further characterization of the most recent human viruses are critical to assess associated risk and to adjust risk management measures timely.

Most human cases are exposed to avian influenza A(H7N9) virus through contact with infected poultry or contaminated environments, including live poultry markets. Since the virus continues to be detected in animals and environments, and live poultry vending continues, further human cases can be expected. Although small clusters of human cases with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus have been reported including those involving patients in the same ward, current epidemiological and virological evidence suggests that this virus has not acquired the ability of sustained transmission among humans. Therefore the likelihood of further community level spread is considered low.

WHO advice

WHO advises that travellers to countries with known outbreaks of avian influenza should avoid, if possible, poultry farms, contact with animals in live poultry markets, entering areas where poultry may be slaughtered, or contact with any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with faeces from poultry or other animals. Travellers should also wash their hands often with soap and water, and follow good food safety and good food hygiene practices.

WHO does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to this event, nor does it currently recommend any travel or trade restrictions. As always, a diagnosis of infection with an avian influenza virus should be considered in individuals who develop severe acute respiratory symptoms while travelling in or soon after returning from an area where avian influenza is a concern.

WHO encourages countries to continue strengthening influenza surveillance, including surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and influenza-like illness (ILI) and to carefully review any unusual patterns, ensure reporting of human infections under the IHR 2005, and continue national health preparedness actions.



 Kelantan declares 'disaster' over bird flu spread; no human infections so far [Channel NewsAsia, 15 Mar 2017]

By Melissa Goh

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File photo of roosters. (Photo: AFP/Shah Marai)

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's northeastern state of Kelantan on Wednesday (Mar 15) declared a disaster to fight the outbreak of H5N1 avian flu after the virus spread to two more districts - Pasir Putih and Bachok.

The highly pathogenic bird flu virus was first detected on Mar 6 after a few free-range chickens died outside the state capital Kota Bharu.

Eighteen villages in Kota Bharu have been affected and almost 25,000 birds - mainly chickens, ducks and geese - have been culled since the infection was reported.

The Kelantan Agriculture and Veterinary Services Department declared the outbreak a state disaster and ordered all agencies and departments to control the outbreak.

The Malaysian Health Ministry’s director general, Noor Hisham, said no human infection has been detected so far but that the ministry is nevertheless on the alert. He added that the virus has not spread to other states, and that the outbreak seems to be contained in Kelantan, which borders Thailand.

The public has been told to take precautions, such as reporting to the authorities if they come into contact with dead birds, and to take care of their personal hygiene.

The state’s veterinary department believes that the virus could have been spread though infected fighting cocks, like in the last outbreak which occurred in 2004. State authorities have asked the community to avoid cockfighting activities for now.



 AVIAN FLU RISK IS HIGH [California Ag Today, 15 Mar 2017]

Protect Poultry from Avian Flu

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University of California poultry experts are urging poultry owners to examine biosecurity for their flocks after avian influenza was confirmed in commercial chickens in Tennessee by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on March 5. To protect the birds’ health, UC scientists recommend taking measures to prevent poultry from coming into contact with wild birds.

“Based on the initial sequence of the virus, the source of the virus is thought to be waterfowl,” said Maurice Pitesky, UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist in the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis. “This is consistent with the current understanding of how avian influenza spreads and evolves. Specifically, juveniles are infected at breeding locations and travel south in the fall carrying virus. As the waterfowl move southward, they are more likely to interact with other species, increasing the risk of interspecies transmission and formation of new varieties of avian influenza.”

The case in Lincoln County, Tenn., is the first report of highly pathogenic H7 avian influenza in commercial poultry in the United States this year. The flock of 73,500 affected chickens is located within the Mississippi Flyway, one of four North American flyways for migratory birds.

“Lincoln County is located in one of the medium-high risk areas that were identified by our risk map, said Beatriz Martínez López, director of the Center for Animal Disease Modeling and Surveillance in the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis.

The UC Agriculture and Natural Resources researcher, who studies risk factors for the spread of avian influenza, noted that California is within atthe Pacific Flyway.

“We need to increase awareness of poultry producers to maximize the biosecurity implemented in their operations, particularly in those located in high-risk areas, mainly farms that are in close proximity to wetlands or other wild bird feeding and resting areas,” Martínez López said.

Poultry owners can identify biosecurity strengths and weaknesses for their own farm or backyard flock by filling out a free survey designed by Martínez López and other poultry experts. People who raise chickens, quail, ducks, turkeys, geese or other birds anywhere in the United States are invited to use the resource. At the end of the survey, participants receive specific research-based recommendations of biosecurity measures they can apply on their own types of farms. The poultry biosecurity survey is available in English http://bit.ly/2kkMycf and Spanish http://bit.ly/2mjO13G. The survey takes 15 to 20 minutes to complete and will be open until June 1.

If you would like UC Cooperative Extension to notify you if there is an avian influenza outbreak in your area, sign up on the California Poultry Census page: ☞ California Backyard Poultry Census  

Owners of backyard chickens who observe illness or increased mortality among their birds should call their veterinarian or the California Department of Food Agriculture sick bird hotline at (866) 922-BIRD (2473).

For more information about raising poultry, visit ☞ UC Cooperative Extension Poultry 



 Northey highlights avian influenza preparations following confirmation of the disease in the U.S. [Dickinson County News, 15 Mar 2017]

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Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey has highlighted the continued biosecurity efforts by Iowa turkey, egg and broiler farmers and the preparations undertaken on the state and federal level following the confirmation of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Tennessee and low pathogenicity avian influenza in Tennessee and Wisconsin in the past week.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus strains are extremely infectious, often fatal to domestic poultry, and can spread rapidly from flock to flock. Low pathogenicity avian influenza (LPAI) virus strains occur naturally in wild migratory waterfowl and shorebirds without causing illness. LPAI can occur in domestic poultry, with little or no signs of illness.

“Iowa saw firsthand the devastating impact of avian influenza in 2015 and in response our poultry farmers have made significant investments and an ongoing commitment to increase biosecurity efforts to keep their birds healthy. We have also worked to learn from the 2015 outbreak to improve the response from both the state and federal governments,” Northey noted.

Biosecurity Important for Farmers:

Iowa turkey, egg and broiler farmers have updated their biosecurity measures and made significant investments to help prevent the disease from getting on their farms. They focus every day on biosecurity in recognition of the potential that Avian Influenza and other diseases are always a risk.

All poultry farms need to have a biosecurity plan to qualify for USDA indemnification. It is also recommended all livestock premises that have one or more animals have an official premises identification number, which may be obtained for free by contacting the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Information on how to obtain premise identification can be found at http://www.iowaagriculture.gov/animalInd... or by calling the Department toll free at 888-778-7675.

Iowa's egg and turkey companies have implemented company-wide biosecurity plans. The Center for Food Security and Public Health, Iowa State University, College of Veterinary Medicine has produced numerous materials to help farmers update biosecurity measures on their farms. More information about their suggestions can be found at http://poultrybiosecurity.org/.

State and Federal Preparations:

In addition to the work by poultry farmers, state and federal partners have taken numerous steps to learn from the 2015 incident and prepare for any future outbreaks.

The Iowa response to Avian Influenza operates under a Unified Command involving the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) and USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Veterinary Services. "We also work closely with partners in the Poultry industry as well as other state agencies, including the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Iowa Department of Public Health, Iowa Department of Natural Resources," concluded Northey.



 Bird flu suspected in Alabama [Fox News, 15 Mar 2017]

By Alyssa Madruga

Poultry at three possible sites in Alabama are being investigated over suspected bird flu concerns.

Aviagen, a large poultry breeding company, said on Tuesday that it euthanized chickens over disease concerns, according to Reuters.

Officials in the state ordered a “stop movement order for certain poultry.”

“With three investigations of avian influenza in north Alabama on three separate premises we feel that the stop movement order is the most effective way to implement biosecurity for all poultry in our state,” Dr. Tony Frazier, a state veterinarian, said in a statement.

Antibodies for bird flu were detected by Aviagen, but a spokeswoman for the company told Reuters that the flock reported “no evidence of clinical disease.”

The spokeswoman also told Reuters that the flock and “all eggs which were collected from that farm in the production system were traced and removed."

Nearly $15 billion is made annually by the poultry and egg industry in Alabama.

“Our staff is committed to staying actively involved in the avian influenza situation until any threats are addressed,” Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan said in a statement.

While officials reported that the suspected strain of the disease doesn’t pose any food supply risk, McMillian said they have “worked hard to maintain a level of readiness.”

Alabama is the second largest poultry producer in the country.



 Minnesota notebook: Franken asks Trump to pay attention to bird flu [Duluth News Tribune, 15 Mar 2017]

By Don Davis

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WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Al Franken is asking President Donald Trump to take action to fight bird flu before it reaches Minnesota and other states.

Franken, D-Minn., wrote a letter to Trump Tuesday, March 14, after reports that avian influenza has hit poultry producers in Wisconsin and Tennessee. He told Trump that a 2015 bird flu outbreak cost the Minnesota economy nearly $650 million. Turkey and chicken producers experienced deaths of about 9 million birds.

"You inherit a system for fighting avian influenza outbreaks that was improved after the 2015 disaster through federal collaboration with state and local government, universities and the poultry industry," Franken told the president. "One of the important pieces in this fight will be the newly expanded Minnesota Poultry Testing laboratory that opened in Willmar, Minn., to conduct surveillance of high pathogenic avian influenza as part of the National Poultry Improvement Plan."

The senator warned Trump that the federal government "must not be caught flat-footed in responding to this agricultural emergency."

Health plan concerns Dayton

ST. PAUL—Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton says a Republican federal health-care plan would cost Minnesotans.

"Unfortunately, the proposal from congressional House Republicans would make health care less affordable and accessible to many Minnesotans," Dayton said Tuesday, March 14. "The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates 14 million more Americans would be uninsured in 2018 and that number would grow to 24 million by 2026. It also would reduce subsidies for low-income, middle-income and older Minnesotans."

The governor said those in greater Minnesota would feel the most impact "because the Republican tax credit does not recognize that health care costs more in some parts of our state."

Also, Dayton said, cutting Medicaid funding could cost Minnesota up to $2 billion in 18 months.

That could cost coverage for 1.2 million Minnesota elderly, children and people with disabilities.

Fund lawmaker pay raises?

ST. PAUL—Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt says he is looking into whether the
Legislature must fund a $14,000 annual pay raise.

A citizens' council last week voted in favor of the raise, following a 2016 public vote to change the state Constitution to remove legislators' ability to raise their own pay. Lawmakers now are paid $31,140 a year.

While legislative leaders thought they were required to appropriate money if the council voted to increase the pay, Daudt, R-Crown, said that Gov. Mark Dayton and his administration have raised the possibility that they may not need to vote to spend the money, thus stopping the raises.

"We right now are exploring our options," he said.

Budget plans coming

ST. PAUL—The governor is close to releasing tweaks to his budget proposal and Republican legislative leaders are close to unveiling their budget framework.
In January, Gov. Mark Dayton released his nearly $46 billion, two-year budget plan that would be 10 percent higher than the current budget. A recent economic report increased the state budget surplus, so is consulting with key advisors about how to revise his plan.

Legislative leaders, meanwhile, waited for that economic report before starting their budget plans.

"We are just working out the final details," House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said Tuesday, March 14.

Republicans who control the House and Senate tend to want deeper tax cuts than Dayton, while the Democratic governor calls for more spending.

Dayton has asked Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, to agree with him on a budget outline by April 28. That gives lawmakers time to send spending bills to Dayton, and for him to veto them if they do not meet his requirements, but still adjourn by the constitutionally requires May 22 date.



 Multiple north Alabama sites flagged for potential bird flu [WAFF, 15 Mar 2017]

By William McLain

MONTGOMERY, AL (WAFF) -
Three locations in north Alabama could be housing chickens carrying avian influenza.

Department of Agriculture and Industries Commissioner John McMillan announced the findings in a Tuesday news conference.

McMillan says the locations are in Lauderdale County, north Madison County and Scottsboro. He did not elaborate further on locations.

The announcement comes one week after a major bird flu outbreak in Lincoln County, Tennessee.

A second chicken breeding location has tested positive for bird flu in Giles County.

A 6-mile radius control area has been established around the infected Tennessee birds in Giles County. The control area extends in parts of Alabama.

Officials stress there is no threat to the state's food supply.

John McMillan: "This is not a food safety issue in Alabama...I'll be having fried chicken for lunch today." https://t.co/Sti3jxhSQj pic.twitter.com/DGtQ94tNzq — WAFF 48 (@waff48) March 14, 2017

There are safety steps for backyard flock owners to take in the meantime. Officials recommend not moving birds from current locations and limiting visits to other farms. You can find more tips on the Alabama A&M & Auburn University extension website.



 Bird Flu Cases Probed in One of the Largest U.S. Chicken States [Bloomberg, 15 Mar 2017]

by Megan Durisin

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• Three poultry flocks in northern areas being investigated
• Tennessee reported avian-influenza discovery last week

Alabama, one of the leading U.S producers of chicken meat, is investigating suspected cases of bird flu in three northern poultry flocks and has introduced some restrictions on the transportation of birds.

A commercial chicken-breeding farm in Lauderdale County and a backyard flock in Madison County are among the facilities under investigation, the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries said in a statement Tuesday. The state is also probing a flea market in Jackson County and has issued an order limiting the movement of some poultry.

The move comes after one neighboring state, Tennessee, reported bird flu last week near the Alabama border. Highly pathogenic bird flu -- which can be deadly to domesticated poultry -- was found in a commercial chicken-breeder flock in Lincoln County on March 5. The farm was a supplier to Tyson Foods Inc., and the flock was destroyed to prevent the spread of the virus.

Later last week, Tennessee said low-pathogenic bird flu, the less contagious form, was also found in a commercial poultry flock in Giles County.

The U.S. southeast was largely spared during the last major American outbreak, which affected turkey and egg farms in the Midwest and led to the death of more than 48 million birds through mid-2015, either from infection or culling.

“Following the 2015 avian influenza outbreak in the Midwest, planning, preparation and extensive biosecurity efforts were escalated in Alabama,” John McMillan, Alabama’s commissioner of agriculture and industries, said in the statement. “Our staff is committed to staying actively involved in the avian influenza situation until any threats are addressed.”

The outbreaks pose a low risk to human health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

USDA Tests

The U.S. Department of Agriculture hasn’t yet confirmed the Alabama findings, according to Lyndsay Cole, a spokeswoman for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Samples from two of the suspect cases are currently being tested at the agency’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories, with the third expected to arrive Tuesday.

No significant mortality was found among the birds in the Lauderdale County commercial operation, Alabama’s agriculture department said. The detections were found during routine surveillance of poultry. Tyson spokesman Worth Sparkman said there are no known bird-flu cases on any of the farms that supply the company.

The order restricting movement of poultry in the state applies to bird traveling to flea markets, auctions and any types of exhibitions, according to Ray Hilburn, associate director of the Alabama Poultry & Egg Association.

South Korea banned imports of all U.S. poultry following the Tennessee bird-flu findings, according to its agriculture ministry. Other importing nations restricted imports from affected areas of the state, USDA data show.

Shares of poultry companies including Tyson and Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. traded lower on Tuesday in New York. Alabama was the third-largest U.S. chicken-producing state by volume as of 2015, with output of 6.17 billion pounds, USDA data show.

Countries across Europe and Asia are also grappling with bird-flu outbreaks this year.



 Alabama ag officials probe 3 possible cases of bird flu [The Cullman Times, 15 Mar 2017]

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries is investigating three possible cases of avian influenza in north Alabama.

At a news conference Tuesday, Agriculture and Industries Commission John McMillan said the findings of bird flu in poultry are in Jackson, Lauderdale and Madison counties.

McMillan told multiple media outlets that the cases, which have been sent off for further testing, are suspected and not confirmed. He also said the cases are not a food safety issue.
The birds involved are waterfowl, primarily ducks and geese.

Alabama has been on alert since a 2015 outbreak in the Midwest. Last week, Tennessee officials confirmed a second commercial chicken-breeding operation had tested positive for the avian flu. That facility was in Giles County, south of Nashville and close to the Alabama state line.
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