Australia begins duck cull to stem bird flu outbreak
Australia has begun culling 24,000 ducks in the hope of stemming an outbreak of bird flu that led to a ban on Australian exports of poultry products to Japan, along with some restrictions by some other Asian countries.
The executive director of the Australian Chicken Meat Federation, Andreas Dubs, said the ducks were being destroyed after testing positive to a low pathogenic strain of the virus.
"The risk to human health is negligible," the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has stated. "On occasions, low pathogenic avian influenza is detected in wild birds in Australia. This is not an unusual occurrence."
At this stage, the outbreak was restricted to two farms near the eastern city of Melbourne in Victoria state, according to Dubs.
Japan's farm ministry announced a ban on poultry imports from Australia on January 27, saying it wanted to prevent the spread of the virus. In 2010, Japan imported 1.2 tonnes of poultry and 0.7 tonnes of eggs from Australia, according to Japanese trade data. Dubs said the ban by Japan, along with partial bans of poultry from Victoria by Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam, were "over reactions" given the limited outbreaks of the virus.
Australia exports about 4% of its poultry products each year to about 60 countries, with Hong Kong typically the biggest buyer, Dubs said. Overall exports, which include eggs, chicken feed and other products are worth about A$40 million ($38 million) a year, he said.
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