Avian in­fluenza and why it’s our back­yard flocks that will most likely be Ground Zero

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Your Poultry -

NEW ZEALAND’S iso­la­tion in terms of ge­og­ra­phy, and the fact that our re­stric­tions on poul­try im­ports are so tight, means we have some pro­tec­tion from avian in­fluenza (bird flu).

How­ever, test­ing has shown low lev­els of a strain of avian in­fluenza in wild wa­ter fowl within NZ, and it would have such dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences – es­pe­cially to our unique na­tive birds – that even a pos­si­bil­ity of an out­break needs to be treated ex­tremely se­ri­ously.

A back­yard flock is more eas­ily able to mix with wild birds, wa­ter fowl and game­birds. You’re also un­likely to put in place the strict biose­cu­rity mea­sures that oc­cur on com­mer­cial farms. That means if there is an out­break of avian in­fluenza here, it’s very pos­si­ble it will be first seen in a back­yard flock.

The il­le­gal im­por­ta­tion of poul­try prod­ucts, fer­tile eggs or live birds may un­wit­tingly in­tro­duce this disease to the ‘fancy breeds’ – peo­ple most re­cently caught at the border have been small back­yard flock own­ers – and spread via shows and sales where no birds are ever tested for a range of diseases. • sud­den and un­ex­plained deaths – an en­tire flock may die within days • swollen blue comb and wat­tles • dark red and white spots on the combs and legs • rapid spread of disease through­out the flock • de­pres­sion and loss of ap­petite • a drop in egg pro­duc­tion • signs of ner­vous­ness

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