Avian influenza in Victoria

Between 31 July and 25 August 2020 three different strains of avian influenza were detected across six commercial production farms in Victoria: 

  • Three egg farms with highly pathogenic H7N7 avian influenza.
  • Two turkey farms with low pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza.
  • One emu farm diagnosed with low pathogenic H7N6 avian influenza.

Avian influenza has now been successfully eradicated from all six farms. A program of sampling, testing and surveillance at these previously infected farms has provided evidence that the avian influenza virus is no longer present.

On 26 February 2021, Australia officially regained freedom from highly pathogenic avian influenza in accordance with international guidelines published by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

Known as proof of freedom, this official evidence is an important milestone and will assist in further re-establishing export markets for Australian producers of poultry and poultry products.

This significant achievement is the result of a successful eradication program implemented by Agriculture Victoria. This avian influenza outbreak was the largest recorded in Australia and presented ongoing challenges for the response team, including restrictions imposed by COVID-19.

Agriculture Victoria was supported by other states and territories, Animal Health Australia as well as affected industry groups, through national response and cost-sharing arrangements. This also involved the provision of experienced personnel and knowledge through interstate deployment arrangements.

While this signals good news for the poultry, egg and ratite industries, it reiterates the need for effective, ongoing biosecurity practices and disease reporting.

Movement restrictions revoked

Agriculture Victoria has revoked its control and restricted areas. This means, there are no longer movement restrictions in place for poultry, poultry products and equipment. However, it does not mean that people should relax their bird biosecurity measures.

Protect your birds from disease

Regardless of whether you are a commercial producer or you only keep a few chickens in your backyard, you need to adopt simple biosecurity practices to protect your birds from disease.

  • Restrict contact between your birds and wild birds. Make free range areas less attractive to wild birds by keeping feeders and water sources inside sheds. Other options include the use of fencing or netting for free range areas.
  • Provide clean water. Keep your birds away from potentially contaminated water sources such as streams, dams, ponds and even puddles.
  • Keep poultry sheds, yards and aviaries clean, including equipment. Clean thoroughly with a detergent before applying a disinfectant.
  • Change nesting materials on a regular basis.
  • Quarantine new birds for 14 days before introducing them to the resident flock.
  • Limit visitors to your birds. Check if essential visitors have recently visited other premises where poultry is kept.
  • If you are selling or giving away eggs, use new cartons if possible or keep reused cartons clean and away from birds.
  • If you attend bird shows do not allow your birds to mix directly with others. Then, keep them separate from the rest of your flock for 14 days when you return home.
  • Always wash your hands before and after handling birds and eggs.
  • Poultry farmers should change into clean footwear before entering poultry houses or hen facilities, to stop the potential transfer of disease from outside.

Poultry and egg industry resources

Best practice farm hygiene and biosecurity practices are adopted in the Australian poultry industry and are standard practice. National biosecurity manuals outline these measures and are available at farmbiosecurity.com.au

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.

Report sick and dead birds

If you notice a number of sick or dead birds (domestic or wild), contact the national 
Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.

Avian influenza and wild birds

It is not unusual for avian influenza to be detected in wild birds in Australia. On rare occasions there is virus spill over from the wild bird population into domestic poultry.

Wild birds can carry differing types of avian influenza without showing symptoms.

About Avian influenza

AI is a serious disease of poultry and occurs worldwide.

AI virus strains are usually classified into two categories according to the severity of disease in poultry. Highly pathogenic strains can cause severe clinical signs and potentially high death rates among poultry. Low pathogenic strains typically cause few or reduced clinical signs in comparison. Chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, guinea fowl, quail, pheasants, emus and ostriches are included in the more than 140 species that are susceptible to AI. Many species of wild birds, including waterfowl and seabirds can also carry the virus.

The virus is mostly spread by wild birds, particularly ducks, contaminating food or water supplies. For this reason, the disease remains a constant biosecurity threat.

Avian influenza can also spread by the movement of eggs, birds, people, vehicles and equipment between farms, and by clothing, footwear, aerosols, water, feed, litter, biting insects and vermin.

Read more about AI on the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment website.

International trade/exports

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment has provided trading partners with the official proof of disease freedom. This is important for re-establishing lost markets for Australia’s affected poultry, egg, and ratite products.

Exporters requiring further information should refer to the most up-to-date Market Access Advice - Egg export industry notices or contact a regional office of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

More information