Industry confident but still on guard

22-11-2006 | |

New Zealand’s poultry industry is confident that any outbreak of avian influenza in the country would be identified and contained quickly, but industry members remain vigilant.

Michael Brooks, executive director of the Poultry Industry Association of New Zealand says that infected poultry would be culled immediately if an outbreak of bird flu was discovered.
“However, the extremely strong passive surveillance programmes that we have in place lead us to believe that avian influenza would be identified quickly and any outbreak would not be widespread,” he said.
New Zealand is free of avian influenza, Newcastle Disease and Infectious Bursal Disease – and is reportedly the only country in the world with this status.
According to the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE), 30 countries have reported outbreaks this year, in most cases involving wild birds like swans.
The World Health Organisation reports that the virus has affected 258 humans across the globe, resulting in 153 human deaths since 2003, mostly children and young adults.
At the recent Biosecurity Summit in Wellington, the OIE stated that Australia and New Zealand “are probably the last two countries on earth that will be vulnerable to the H5N1 strain of avian influenza”.
But Brooks says that New Zealand is still continually reviewing all the matters that it can control to lessen the risk of H5N1 strain, to protect its status as a disease-free country. 
“We cannot be totally confident, but believe that the industry is in a very good position to keep avian influenza out,” Brooks says.