Tuesday 1 December 2020

Concerns growing: Two million chickens culled as a fourth Japanese prefecture detects avian flu in the county's worst outbreak in four years: A highly contagious strain of the H5 variant is on the rise in Asia and Europe

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Bird flu has been detected in a fourth Japanese prefecture, the agriculture ministry said on Tuesday, as a wave of infections at poultry farms sparks the country’s worst outbreak in more than four years. Avian influenza was discovered at a poultry farm in Hyuga city in Miyazaki prefecture in southwestern Japan, the ministry said on its website.

Japan’s worst outbreak since at least 2016 started last month in Kagawa prefecture on Shikoku island, which is adjacent to Kyushu island where Miyazaki is located. The 40,000 chickens at the Miyazaki farm will be slaughtered and buried, while exports in a 3 km (1.8 miles) radius around the farm will be restricted. The new action means more than 1.8 million chickens will have been culled since the latest outbreak began, according to Reuters.

Growing concerns of a new pandemic

China's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs announced Friday of an outbreak of H5N8 subtype highly pathogenic avian influenza in wild swans in Pinglu County, Yuncheng City, Shanxi Province. The outbreak occurred at the Sanwan Whooper Swan Scenic Area, Pinglu County, Yuncheng City. There are more than 4,000 wild swans living in this area, with 2 sick and 2 dead. After the outbreak, the local area immediately activated an emergency response mechanism, carried out emergency response work, and disinfected the surrounding environment.

Earlier this week, bird flu has been found at a turkey farm in northern England just weeks before Christmas. The Government said all 10,500 birds at the farm would be humanely culled to limit the spread of the H5N8 strain and the risk to public health was very low. A detailed investigation is now underway to determine the source of the outbreak and a 3km and 10km Temporary Control Zone has been put in place around the infected site to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

Public Health England (PHE) and the Food Standards Agency assured consumers that avian influenzas pose a very low risk to people and that properly cooked poultry products including eggs are safe to eat. UK chief veterinary officer, Christine Middlemiss, who advises the Government on animal welfare, said: "immediate steps" were taken to stop the disease from spreading when it was detected at the farm on Saturday. She said: "Avian flu has been confirmed at a commercial turkey fattening farm near Northallerton, North Yorkshire.

A highly contagious strain of the H5 variant is on the rise in Asia and Europe recently.

Japan has detected a new outbreak of bird flu on a chicken farm in southwestern Fukuoka prefecture, in addition to the eight already reported in Kagawa Prefecture, the government said last week. The wave of avian influenza that began earlier this month is proving to be the worst in around four years and the first serious spread of the virus in two years.

"The ninth case of highly pathogenic avian influenza has been confirmed," Japan's chief government spokesman, Katsunobu Kato, told a regular briefing. "An epidemiological investigation team consisting of officials from the ministry of agriculture and epidemiology experts plans to conduct an investigation regarding the route of infections," Kato said.

About 93,500 chickens on a farm in Munakata city in Fukuoka will be culled, the Asahi newspaper reported. In Kagawa prefecture, more than 1.3 million chickens have been culled this month. Japan's last outbreak of bird flu was in January 2018, also in Kagawa Prefecture, when 91,000 chickens were culled. The last big outbreak was between November 2016 and March 2017, when a total of 1.67 million chickens were culled due to the H5N6 strain of bird flu.

Meanwhile, in Europe, Denmark ordered 25,000 chickens to be culled after finding H5N8 bird flu on a farm, authorities said on Monday, effectively halting the country's poultry and egg exports to countries outside the European Union for at least three months. The cull comes after cases of bird flu have been found in wild birds in the west of the country in recent days, while a series of outbreaks have been registered across Europe in the past weeks.

Earlier on Monday, Germany ordered 16,100 turkeys slaughtered after finding the same type of bird flu on a farm in northern Germany. The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration said in a statement no cases of human contagion had been registered across Europe and Monday's find had been reported to the EU authorities. (Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard; editing by David Evans) Meanwhile, Dutch authorities have culled some 190,000 chickens after a highly contagious strain of bird flu broke out at least two poultry farms, the agriculture ministry said Sunday.

Health workers slaughtered around 100,000 hens at a poultry farm at Hekendorp outside Gouda while 90,000 chicks were culled at Witmarsum, in northern Friesland. In both cases "a highly contagious strain of the H5 variant" was suspected, the ministry said in a statement. There were no other poultry farms within a one-kilometre radius of the outbreaks, it added. "Both farms were cleared to prevent further spread of the disease," the ministry said.

Seasonal bird flu has been detected at various farms around the Netherlands since October, blamed mainly on migratory birds. Dutch Agriculture Minister Carola Schouten on October 23 imposed preventative indoor containment on all commercial poultry farms after two dead swans were discovered carrying the highly contagious H5N8 variety of bird flu. The new measures come as the Netherlands also battles the second wave of COVID-19 which continued to infect around 6,000 people a day. Earlier this month, authorities found bird flu outbreaks at two poultry farms and the same strain - H5N8 - has also infected chickens and wild birds in north Germany.

A farm in the eastern Dutch town of Puiflijk and another nearby have culled 200,000 chickens. Chickens are also infected at a small poultry farm in Nordfriesland, part of Germany's Schleswig-Holstein state. Health experts say people should avoid touching sick or dead birds, and chicken and eggs are safe to eat if cooked thoroughly, as that kills the virus.

A poultry farm in Frodsham, north-west England, also has cases: a cull of 13,000 birds was ordered there on Monday. Meanwhile, Belgium has detected an outbreak of bird flu, leading authorities to order all poultry farmers and individual bird owners to keep the animals confined, the country's food safety agency AFSCA said earlier this month. Avian influenza has recently spread to western Europe after outbreaks in Russia and Kazakhstan this summer. A smaller cull occurred at a farm in Kent, in the south-east, where the H5N2 avian influenza strain was detected last week. H5N8 has been detected in migratory birds from Russia. A huge cull was carried out on farms in Russia's western Kostroma region late last month, to contain an outbreak. The Dutch farms affected are just outside Nijmegen, 30km (19 miles) from the German border.


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