Prioritise bird welfare over cost
The local commercial poultry industry is at risk of the H5N8 outbreak turning into a pandemic with major financial and operational implications, says Gareth Lloyd-jones, chief commercial officer of the Ecowize Group, explaining that avian influenza is highly pathogenic and can spread very quickly.
“While it does not infect or harm humans, it presents a major commercial threat as the only way to contain the virus is to cull any birds that may have been exposed. In addition to the number of birds taken by the virus itself, the necessary actions to contain the virus will undoubtedly have a major impact on the poultry association,” he says.
The Department of Agriculture‚ Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has noted that local cases have presented the same strain but that the affected farms were not linked‚ meaning that each case resulted from separate introductions. The Department agreed to euthanize the birds together with the NSPCA.
Lloyd-jones highlights that vaccination against Avian Influenza is illegal as infected vaccinated birds can continue to spread the virus while their symptoms are masked.
He says, “It is important for poultry owners and breeders to prevent contact→
between their chickens and wild birds. Do not feed chickens outside, let them roam free, or drink from open water sources. If infected, chickens will look sick, and because the virus spreads so quickly, you will notice high numbers of the flock dying off.”
Lloyd-jones adds that if you suspect infection, do not remove the chicken, its eggs, bedding, manure or any other tools from your premises.
“Instead, do your best to quarantine the infected bird from the flock and call for assistance,” he says, adding that owners should prioritise the welfare of the local bird population and the poultry industry over any potential costs of testing and that the Department will pay for samples to rule out avian influenza if sent to the ARCOVR through the State Vet office.¡