Bird Flu

By Ken Baker

Bird Flu, H5N1 virus*

*Article taken from Vetafarm Bulletin issue 4, 2006

The following article gives an excellent, logical analysis of the issues and puts it all into perspective
We thank Vetafarm for allowing us to republish this article

Since 2006 bird flu has occasionally raised its head, but it has never amounted to the great threat it presented back then

 AVIAN INFLUENZA - IS IT A NEW DISEASE

No - Bird flu is a very common virus in waterfowl. There are 16 different strains of avian influenza. Some are harmless, others are deadly (to waterfowl and poultry). Avian Influenza has hit Australia 5 times (1976,1985,1992, 1994,1997), but only affected a small number of poultry farms

WHAT DOES AVIAN INFLUENZA LOOK LIKE

It mainly affects water birds and poultry
Typically it is a rapidly progressing respiratory disease with coughing, sneezing, rasping and sudden death. Swelling and darkening of the comb and wattles is common Obviously the birds look sick! Poultry will drop feed and water intake and egg production will stop

PANDEMIC HUMAN INFLUENZA IS NOT THE SAME AS AVIAN INFLUENZA

A 'pandemic' is a disease outbreak that affects a big proportion of the population quite rapidly

Human influenza pandemics occur irregularly - the last was in 1968. As human flu viruses change constantly there is no way to predict which strain will cause a pandemic

HASN'T THE BIRD FLU H5N1 ALREADY KILLED PEOPLE

In fact there are now several forms of H5N1 - the numbers are just a way of identifying this virus
Avian Influenza H5N has killed about 90 people worldwide since being discovered. It has a fatality rate of about 50'% of infected people. Ordinary human flu viruses have killed millions of people in the same time. Deaths from H5N1 have occurred where the virus was raging in domestic poultry and hygiene was poor. As far as Australia is concerned there are no conditions in this country that would allow H5N1 to affect people

WELL WHAT IS ALL THE FUSS ABOUT

The fear is that a human flu virus and the H5N1 bird virus will join and create a monster

Under conditions of poor hygiene and large populations of poultry with people in close contact it may be possible for the two viruses to exchange genetic information - but all the experts agree that this is a very small possibility and depends on a whole series of events taking place in a living cell at the same time

HOW DOES THE VIRUS SPREAD

Live poultry markets in Third world countries are a good site to spread the virus

Back yard poultry flocks that are kept in poor conditions
Fighting cock transport and fights are a good way to spread the virus
Migrant ducks in rice paddies and shallow lakes
Countries with poor veterinary services have difficulty containing the virus when it appears

WILL H5N1 COME TO AUSTRALIA IN MIGRATING BIRDS

The H5N1 was first detected in 1996 and has not been found in Australia yet
The virus naturally resides in waterfowl that do not migrate to Australia. The common migratory waders we see do not carry the disease
Australian poultry industry biosecurity is very good and will detect the virus in any legal import of poultry to Australia - illegal imports may be a risk

ARE THERE ANY RISKS WITH FOOD SUCH AS EGGS OR POULTRY MEAT

Well-cooked eggs and meat from poultry are completely safe. You are more at risk of Salmonella food poisoning than you ever will be from Avian Influenza

ARE MY AVIARY BIRDS AT RISK

No. Parrots, finches and canaries are rarely affected by Avian Flu viruses - the viruses prefer poultry especially waterfowl
Bird keeping conditions in Australia are much better than those where the Bird Flu is being seen and all Australian bird veterinarians agree that aviary birds are not at risk nor pose a risk