A second egg farm near Lethbridge has tested positive to avian influenza.
It follows another case of H7N7 avian influenza virus (sometimes known as bird flu) at a free range egg farm in Lethbridge on July 31.
Agriculture Victoria's AgriBio lab confirmed this week that the latest batch of surveillance samples from birds from the property had returned positive for the virus.
Avian influenza is a highly contagious disease that predominantly affects chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, guinea fowl, quail pheasants and ostriches. Many species of wild birds, including waterfowl and seabirds, can also carry the virus but without symptoms.
Signs of the disease may include:
- sudden death
- birds with difficulty breathing, such as coughing, sneezing, or rasping
- swelling and purple discolouration of the head, comb, wattles and neck
- rapid drop in eating, drinking and egg production
- ruffled feathers, dopiness, closed eyes
The second farm to test positive is within the existing 'Restricted Area' in Golden Plains Shire that is under movement restrictions and regular surveillance, which has enabled for "the rapid identification and containment of the disease", Agriculture Victoria said.
The virus is not a risk to food safety or the public, as it rarely affects humans unless there is direct contact with sick birds. If it does affects humans, it is a mild disease.
Victoria's Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Graeme Cooke said as with the first property, Agriculture Victoria was moving swiftly to contain and prevent further spread of the disease to other farms.
Yesterday it placed the second farm under quarantine and depopulated all infected birds and litter.
We have completed destruction operations on the first farm and implemented surveillance and movement controls across the region. It was these measures that allowed the early detection of the virus on this farmDr Graeme Cooke
"We have completed destruction operations on the first farm and implemented surveillance and movement controls across the region. It was these measures that allowed the early detection of the virus on this farm," Dr Cooke said.
Both properties will remain under quarantine and without birds until all of the requirements are met for restocking.
Dr Cooke said an obligation to house all free-range poultry indoors would be introduced for all commercial operators in the control area.
Owners of backyard flocks are urged to take all practical measures to reduce contact between wild birds and domestic poultry.
"At this stage of the response we consider it prudent to keep the housing order in place for a minimum of thirty days," he said.
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Agriculture Victoria has also expanded the Restricted Area to provide a buffer zone around the newly identified farm.
The Controlled area remains the same.
"These controls prohibit the movement of poultry, birds, related equipment and products within and out of, the designated Control Area of Golden Plains Shire unless a permit has been granted by Agriculture Victoria until further notice," Dr Cooke said.
"This means all poultry and equipment, including hens, chickens, eggs and manure cannot be sold (including online) or given away at farm-gate, on property or taken to any markets.
All poultry and equipment, including hens, chickens, eggs and manure cannot be sold (including online) or given away at farm-gate, on property or taken to any markets.Dr Graeme Cooke
"This applies equally to commercial and backyard producers. We thank everyone for their ongoing cooperation with this."
All poultry and bird owners are reminded to follow best biosecurity practice to prevent the introduction of pests and diseases.
"Remember to keep your poultry sheds, yards, aviaries and equipment clean. Restrict contact between your poultry and wild birds and limit visitors to your flock," Dr Cooke said.
"Ensure footwear is clean when re-entering your property, always wash hands before and after handling birds or eggs and quarantine new birds before integrating with existing ones."
Members of the public who have had contact with birds and experience cold or flu symptoms should seek medical advice.
Australia has previously experienced incursions of highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses which were successfully eradicated.
Agriculture Victoria will continue to contact poultry or bird owners in the area, in addition to conducting surveillance on poultry and wild birds and continuing to undertake testing for avian influenza to make sure the disease hasn't continued to spread.
"If you have sick or dead poultry or bids or notice a decline in egg production it is important to immediately notify the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888 or your vet," Dr Cooke said.
"That number can also be used to report dead or sick wild birds or waterfowl as part of the National Avian Influenza Wild Bird Surveillance program conducted through Wildlife Health Australia."
If you're a poultry or bird owner within Golden Plains Shire and haven't heard from Agriculture Victoria since last Friday call (03) 4338 2715 to assist with surveillance efforts.
Further information on protective measures, including movement controls can be found at: agriculture.vic.gov.au