SINT MAARTEN-ANTIGUA – The Antigua Government Veterinary and Livestock Division has implemented a temporary poultry ban from countries (United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Japan) effective November 18, 2014 due to the recent outbreak of Avian Influenza, also known as bird flu.
All poultry and poultry products have been banned from the three aforementioned countries due to the strain of bird flu being lethal and potentially transmissible to humans.
The European Union (EU) Commission has adopted protective measures to contain the bird flu outbreak in Europe. These measures include culling animals in infected areas and banning sales of poultry products from those areas.
The Netherlands earlier in the week introduced a three-day country-wide ban on the transportation of poultry and eggs.
Avian influenza (AI) is a disease of birds, caused by Type “A” influenza viruses which can affect several species of domestic poultry, such as chickens, turkeys, quails, guinea fowl, ducks, etc., as well as pet birds and wild birds. Avian influenza viruses have also been isolated, although less frequently, from mammalian species including rats, mice, weasels, ferrets, pigs, cats, tigers, dogs, horses, as well as humans.
This virus was detected early this year in Asia in poultry species in the Republic of Korea, Japan and in China. In January 2014, the authorities of the Republic of Korea reported the first poultry cases of disease due to the infection with a highly pathogenic strain H5N8 of avian influenza viruses (type A). The total of 29 outbreaks was reported in birds involving geese, chickens and ducks. Close to 600,000 birds were culled. This event was resolved in September 2014. In September 2014, the country reported a new outbreak in ducks reared for meat production where 1200 birds died and 19,800 were culled to control the disease.
In April 2014, Japan notified one outbreak caused by HPAI H5N8 with 1,100 cases reported. As a part of control measures, 112,000 birds were destroyed/culled. This outbreak was resolved in July 2014. Four months later, in November 2014, another outbreak was notified by Japan when the virus was confirmed.
China reported the same subtype of avian influenza viruses in October 2014 notifying two outbreaks involving one environmental sample and one duck sample collected as a part of the national surveillance plan.
H5N8 virus was previously seen in the United States of America (Idaho) in 2008 in the form of low pathogenic (LP) avian influenza and then six years later (2014) in California in a similar LP form.
German authorities confirmed highly pathogenic H5N8, in fattening turkeys in a semi-closed rearing system in Mecklenburg - Vorpommern in early November 2014. One case was detected; all 1,731 susceptible birds present at the farm were destroyed.
Nine days later, veterinary services of The Netherlands detected the virus within the farm of 150,000 layer and breeding hens in Utrecht in a closed breeding system. There were 1,000 cases confirmed; all susceptible animals on the infected premises have been killed.
The United Kingdom also detected a highly pathogenic HPAI virus subtype H5N8 in a housed 60-week-old duck breeding flock that started about same time as in Netherlands. Approximately 6,000 birds have been culled.
What is the source of influenza A (H5N8)?
Based on the partial sequence data of the HA gene segment, the German, the Dutch and the British viruses were identified as closely related to the Republic of Korea H5N8 viruses. Investigations are continuing to determine the source. The viruses belong to the clade 126.96.36.199.
Have wild birds been identified as a carrier of the influenza A (H5N8) virus?
Wild birds can normally carry avian influenza viruses in their respiratory or intestinal tracts but they do not commonly get sick. They have historically been known as reservoirs and vectors of AI viruses. Around the world, surveillance measures have been put in place to monitor occurrence and characteristics of AI viruses in wild birds. To date, the infection with avian influenza viruses subtype H5N8 has been detected in wild birds in China, the Republic of Koreaand Japan.The majority of avian influenza viruses does not cause disease in wild birds, but is very likely that wild birds might spread the virus via their migratory flyways.
How is influenza A(H5N8) transmitted and spread among birds?
All AI viruses can be transmitted among birds through direct contact with secretions from infected birds, especially faeces or through contaminated feed, water, equipment, and human clothing and shoes.
They are readily transmitted from farm to farm by the movement of domestic live birds, people (especially when shoes and other clothing are contaminated), and contaminated vehicles, equipment, feed, and cages. Highly pathogenic viruses can survive for long periods in the environment, especially when temperatures are low.
Several factors can contribute to the spread of all AI viruses including: the movements of people and goods, marketing practices (live bird markets), farming practices and the presence of the viruses in migratory wild birds.