/ 23 May 2024

Bird flu hits Victoria


The Squiz 

Agriculture Victoria confirmed yesterday that 2 cases of avian influenza – aka bird flu – have been detected in the state – one rare case in a child who has since recovered and another at a poultry farm. Authorities said the child entered Victoria from India in March and fell ill, testing positive to the severe H5N1 strain of the virus that’s currently decimating global bird populations. A Victorian Health spokesperson said contact tracing found no evidence the virus had been passed on to anyone and the child has made a full recovery. Meanwhile, an egg farm south of Ballarat has been placed in quarantine after analysed samples found traces of the H7N7 strain, which we’ve dealt with in Australia before.

Why is bird flu a thing? 

Bird flu is a highly contagious infection with the most serious forms being highly pathogenic viruses – aka extremely dangerous – that can cause severe symptoms and sudden death. Many wild birds carry the disease but don’t show symptoms and can spread it to domestic birds and other species including humans. That happened in 2009/10 when the H1N1 strain caused a pandemic that killed 200 Aussies and countless others overseas. Historically, there have been many bird flu outbreaks that have killed millions of birds – either directly or through preventative culling. In Oz, we’ve seen 8 outbreaks on commercial bird farms since 1976 – all were successfully eradicated. But that comes at a cost… Eliminating the last major outbreak saw farmers cop a significant financial and mental health toll as their birds were euthanised. 

What comes next? 

The Federal Government has fired up their emergency response plans to support Victorian authorities and the CSIRO Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness is also involved. Experts say even if we don’t have H5N1 in Oz, it’s only a matter of time, and bird farmers need to maintain strong biosecurity practices and look out for symptoms. The current outbreak has caused millions of bird deaths overseas, including in Antarctica. Goats and cattle are also among the infected animals – posing a serious risk to agricultural industries. One person in Texas has also been infected, prompting “great concern” among experts that the virus could evolve and infect humans – and given we’re all infectious diseases experts following our experience of COVID, we know how that song can go… But for now, Agriculture Victoria says the current threat to the public is low, and egg and poultry products “do not pose a risk and are safe to consume”.

Know someone who'd be interested in this story? Click to share...

The Squiz Today

Your shortcut to being informed, we've got your news needs covered.

Get the Squiz Today newsletter

Quick, agenda-free news that doesn't take itself too seriously. Get on it.