Avian influenza virus strains are described as low pathogenicity (LPAI) or high pathogenicity (HPAI).

Current strains of avian influenza do not appear to transmit easily between humans.

Eggs and chicken meat are safe to eat provided they are handled and cooked according to standard food handling practices.

 

Detection in Australia

A response to an outbreak of high pathogenicity avian influenza (HPAI) is currently underway on 5 Victorian poultry farms.

The first detection of an H7 HPAI strain was confirmed on 22 May 2024 at a poultry farm near Meredith, Victoria.

On 24 May, Agriculture Victoria’s tracing activities identified a separate H7 HPAI strain on a poultry farm near Terang in the Shire of Corangamite.

On 3 June, H7 HPAI was confirmed at a third Victorian poultry farm, a fourth poultry farm was confirmed as affected on 5 June and a fifth poultry farm was confirmed on 6 June. These properties are within the Golden Plains Shire.

The Australian, state and territory and Victorian governments along with affected livestock industries, are working together to manage this outbreak through well-established response arrangements.

A nationally agreed response plan to control and eradicate HPAI in Victoria is being implemented and regularly reviewed as the response progresses.

Testing at the CSIRO's Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness laboratory confirmed that these strains are genetically related to viruses previously detected in Australian wild birds. The viruses are not the H5 strain currently causing concern globally.

There is no connection between these detections of H7 HPAI in Victorian poultry and the recent detection of H5N1 avian influenza in a person, who recently returned from travel overseas.

Victoria movement restrictions

Restricted Areas have been established around the infected premises, and broader Control Area buffers are also in place around the Restricted Areas.

Housing requirements have been issued by Agriculture Victoria for poultry and birds on properties within the Restricted and Control Areas. This requirement to house or keep poultry enclosed in cages or sheds helps to minimise contact with wild birds and reduces but does not eliminate the risk of spreading the disease.

Movement controls are in place restricting the movement of poultry and birds, poultry products, equipment and vehicles on and off the two infected premises and other properties within the Restricted and Control Areas.

All infected premises are quarantined, and field teams are supporting impacted businesses and broader industry by implementing movement restrictions and undertaking activities to contain and eradicate the virus.

Updates on the situation, including on Restricted Area and Control Area zones and movement restrictions can be found on the Agriculture Victoria website.

Testing and surveillance

Testing of samples from the infected farms found that the viruses were similar to low pathogenicity avian influenza (LPAI) viruses detected in Australian wild bird samples.

There is no indication of an unusual disease event in Australian wild birds.

It is not unusual for LPAI to be detected in wild birds in Australia. On rare occasions there is an LPAI spill-over from the wild bird population into domestic poultry, the LPAI viruses can then mutate into HPAI strains in poultry. Previous outbreaks of HPAI in poultry in Australia were linked to the spillover of LPAI strains from wild birds.

Wild birds can carry LPAI viruses without showing signs of disease. Pre-emptive culling of wild birds is not an appropriate response to these incidents, as it is not known to have any impact on the spread of the disease.

About avian influenza

Avian influenza virus strains are described as LPAI or HPAI.

Most LPAI strains of avian influenza virus cause minimal disease in wild birds and poultry. There are also strains of HPAI spreading globally causing widescale death of poultry and wild birds.

If poultry become infected, it can spread between birds or when contaminated poultry products, feed, equipment or other items are moved between sites. Avian influenza virus can survive for long periods in droppings, respiratory secretions, water, feathers, eggs and meat.

All bird species are considered vulnerable to avian influenza.

Disease signs

Signs of disease usually appear in several or all birds in a flock, including:

  • sudden death
  • lethargy or reluctance to walk, eat or drink
  • droopy appearance or ruffled feathers
  • head or limb swelling
  • bruising of the wattle, comb, feet or skin
  • respiratory signs such as panting, nasal discharge or sneezing
  • diarrhoea
  • unusual head or neck posture, incoordination, inability to walk or stand
  • unusual reduction in egg production.

Avian influenza can only be confirmed through laboratory testing of samples collected by a veterinarian or government animal health officer.

Your obligations

You can help prevent the spread of avian influenza.

Report sightings

Report anything unusual, even if you’re not sure.

If you suspect disease on your farm or property, call the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888. You’ll be directed to your state or territory government.

Biosecurity practices on your property

If you own backyard poultry or other birds, these 8 simple steps will help protect them from these diseases:

  1. Keep your equipment and poultry yard or aviary clean.
    • Remove litter, sand and grit from the aviary between batches of birds, and every few months for resident birds.
    • Thoroughly clean concrete floors, walls and aviary wire with soapy water, and disinfect as needed.
    • Clean and disinfect feed and water containers regularly.
    • Don't share equipment with other birdkeepers unless it has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
  2. Avoid contact between your birds and wild birds.
    • Prevent contact with wild birds by restricting access to open ponds, lakes and creeks. Protective netting can also help prevent wild birds from entering domestic bird areas.
    • Clean up surrounding areas to reduce shelter and hiding places for wild birds.
  3. Don’t let feed and water become contaminated by faeces or other animal waste.
    • Ensure water supplied to birds is from a chlorinated mains water supply, a clean bore, or treated appropriately if these sources aren't available (also see the Water Biosecurity Manual).
    • Don't allow wild birds or pest animals to contaminate your birds' feed. Store it in a container with a secure lid.
  4. Practice good hygiene when handling birds including at bird shows.
    • Always thoroughly wash your hands with soap before and after handling birds.
    • Clean your footwear and wash clothing regularly and avoid using the same clothing and footwear around your own birds if you have visited other flocks or events such as shows.
    • Do not take any birds to a show if there are signs of illness in your flock.
    • All bird equipment and permanent carrying containers should be cleaned and disinfected before and after a show.
    • At the show, avoid handling birds other than your own, if possible.
    • At home, show birds should always undergo a period of quarantine before returning to the flock.
    • Keep a register of all bird movements in and out of your premises.
    • For more information, refer to the following resources:
  5. Limit visitors' access to your birds.
    • Restrict access to bird areas.
    • Ask visitors to wash hands, practice good hygiene, put on clean protective clothing and use footbaths containing appropriate disinfectants at the entrance to bird areas or sheds.
    • Keep a record of visitors.
  6. Quarantine new birds.
    • Separate and monitor new birds for at least 30 days before introducing them to your existing flock.
    • Always source birds from a reputable producer or breeder whose bird health status is known.
    • Always buy healthy birds and avoid buying them from markets.
    • Feed and clean quarantined birds after you have tended to other birds.
  7. Know the signs of disease.
    Signs of disease usually appear in several or all birds in a flock, including:
    • sudden death
    • lethargy or reluctance to walk, eat or drink
    • droopy appearance or ruffled feathers
    • head or limb swelling
    • bruising of the wattle, comb, feet or skin
    • respiratory signs such as panting, nasal discharge or sneezing
    • diarrhoea
    • unusual head or neck posture, incoordination, inability to walk or stand
    • unusual reduction in egg production.
  8. Immediately report any sick or dead birds.

If you see sick or dead birds, talk to your local vet or call the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888. This will put you in touch with your state or territory agriculture department. Avian influenza and Newcastle disease are notifiable animal diseases. You must report a suspected outbreak.

Visit farmbiosecurity.com.au for more detailed information on preventing disease in chickens, ducks and other species.

Resources

See more on the response and how you can manage the risk of avian influenza on your property.