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