Avian influenza (bird flu)

Update

A free-range egg farm near Lethbridge has tested positive for H7N7 avian influenza virus.

Movement controls dependent on the risk, have been put in place in Golden Plains Shire and the affected property has been quarantined. These controls prohibit, until further notice, the movement of birds, equipment and products within and out of, the designated restricted area, except under permit issued by Agriculture Victoria.

For movement permits of poultry, poultry products and vehicles involved in poultry production within the Restricted Area and Control Area please apply online here. An Agriculture Victoria staff member will make contact with you to progress the application. Please see the relevant map and contact the Customer Contact Centre on (03) 4334 2715 for advice on a permit.

Shaded area, approximately 4km in diameter, located to the west of Lethbridge between the Midland Highway and Mt Mercer Road.Shaded area extends from Geelong West, Inverleight and Wingeel, west to Cressy and Bradvale, north to Bittong, Smythesdale and Smythes Creek and east to Meredith, Steightz and Batesford.

All pigeon races, bird shows and bird sales in the areas around the quarantined property should be cancelled.

To control the spread of avian influenza, birds on the affected property are being destroyed.

Agriculture Victoria is conducting surveillance throughout the area to determine whether the virus is contained to the property or may be a risk to other properties.

Agriculture Victoria is sampling birds on the infected property/restricted area and results are known within 24 hours.

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services confirmed the H7N7 virus is not a risk to the public as it rarely affects humans unless there is direct and close contact with sick birds. There are no food safety issues identified; properly cooked chicken meat and eggs are safe to eat.

For further information visit disease information advice — avian flu.

If you have had contact with birds on an affected property and you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, call your doctor or the Department of Health and Human Services on 1300 651 160 for medical advice.

Poultry farmers, and back yard flock and bird owners are urged to report any cases of unexplained bird deaths to the 24-hour Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888, to your local vet or to Agriculture Victoria animal health staff

More information for:

Restricted and control area orders

The restricted and control area Orders are legislative instruments used to prevent, control or eradicate the spread of a livestock exotic disease, in this case Avian Influenza.

The Orders are made by the Minister or Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) under the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994. In this instance the Orders have been signed by the CVO and are in effect for 72 hours. After that time, the CVO may sign further short-term Orders or the Minister may sign Orders for longer durations.

The Orders may declare any land, premises, place or area to be a restricted and control areas, specifying any prohibitions, restrictions or requirements to operate within those areas. The Orders declare the Golden Plains Shire to be a control area and within that, an area between Meredith, Shelford and Lethbridge to be a restricted area.

The Orders are required to be published in the Government Gazette.

These Orders and future revisions will be published on this website.

Avian influenza (AI) or 'bird flu' is a highly contagious viral disease affecting several species (mainly birds). It is a zoonotic disease which can infect humans in rare cases, usually through contact with infected poultry.

AI virus strains are usually classified into two categories according to the severity of disease in poultry:

  • Highly pathogenic (HPAI) strains, which can cause severe clinical signs and potentially high mortality rates among poultry.
  • Low pathogenic (LPAI) strains, which typically cause few or no clinical signs in poultry and may go undetected due to the lack of symptoms in some species of birds. LPAI can result in some mortality.

AI virus is carried by wild birds, particularly waterfowl and shorebirds, around the world; for the most part without causing any apparent clinical disease. Occasionally, when exposure to wild birds occurs, AI can infect domestic birds and spread rapidly.

What to do if you suspect AI

AI is a notifiable disease. This means that legally you must tell us if you know of or suspect the presence of AI in any birds. You can do this by calling one of the following:

  • an Animal Health Officer or District Veterinary Officer at Agriculture Victoria on (03) 4334 2715, or
  • the all-hours Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.

Regularly check your birds and immediately report any unusual signs of disease to our staff or your local vet.

Risk to Australia

There have been occasional outbreaks of internationally notifiable HPAI and LPAI on poultry farms in Australia.

On each occasion the outbreak was quickly detected and stamped out, and only a small number of farms were affected.

Annual migration of wild birds has the ongoing potential to introduce new subtypes of AI virus to Australian birds. There is always a need for sound biosecurity to prevent wild bird exposure to domestic poultry and ongoing vigilance to facilitate rapid response should an outbreak of LPAI or HPAI occur.

Species affected by AI

The following birds are most susceptible to being affected by AI:

  • domestic fowl
  • ducks
  • geese
  • guinea fowl
  • ostriches
  • pheasants
  • quail
  • turkeys.

Many species of wild birds, including waterfowl and seabirds, can carry the virus but usually show no signs of disease.

Infection of humans occurs rarely, usually through contact with infected poultry.

People are not infected by eating chicken meat or eggs, or by contact with other infected people.

Preventing avian influenza

To minimise the risk of AI outbreaks in domestic birds, prevent contact between poultry and wild waterfowl and their droppings.

Poultry producers and bird-keepers should implement the following minimum biosecurity measures:

  • bird-proof housing and feed storage areas
  • prevent access to surface water that may have been contaminated by wild waterfowl (such as ponds, lakes, creeks, channels, dams, puddles and water troughs) or only using a chlorinated (2 to 3 PPM) water source
  • restrict access of people to bird areas
  • ensure visitors are only permitted to enter bird areas after donning protective clothing and going through a foot bath containing a viricidal agent effective in the presence of organic matter.

Other helpful biosecurity measures include:

  • source birds directly from a reputable breeder or producer, rather than from a market or place where birds have been gathered from many sources
  • inspect and clean bird areas at least once a week
  • clean and disinfect feed containers regularly
  • don't share equipment with other bird-keepers unless it's been cleaned and disinfected
  • remove sand and grit from the aviary between batches of birds, and every few months for resident birds
  • clean concrete floors, walls and aviary wire thoroughly, and scrub down with detergent.

Preventing wild bird access is relatively straightforward when birds are enclosed in poultry houses but may be difficult where birds range freely over open areas.

Minimising risk at bird shows

While bird shows are a great opportunity for breeders and exhibitors to showcase breeds and compete for coveted titles, there's some risk of disease spread because of close contact among birds and handlers from different locations.

Basic and effective biosecurity measures at bird shows to help prevent the spread of diseases include:

  • don't introduce any birds to the show if there's illness in the home flock
  • clean and disinfect all bird equipment, cages and containers before and after shows
  • judges and handlers should disinfect hands between birds where possible, while exhibitors should only handle their own birds
  • ensure that show birds undergo a quarantine period before they're reintroduced to the home flock — while 21 days is sufficient for AI, a period of 6 weeks might be preferable as a general disease precaution
  • keep records of bird movements to assist traceback in the event of a disease outbreak
  • don't display waterfowl in pavilions or areas that house poultry, pigeons or other birds
  • consider having a veterinarian present or contactable on show days.

Clinical signs to look out for

The clinical signs of AI infection are variable and influenced greatly by:

  • the virulence of the viruses involved
  • the species affected
  • age
  • concurrent bacterial disease
  • the environment.

Signs of LPAI

Clinical signs range from inapparent to mild or severe and can include:

  • respiratory distress (can be confused with infectious laryngotracheitis)
  • coughing, sneezing or rasping respiration
  • rapid drop in feed intake, water intake and egg production
  • typical 'sick bird' signs — for example, ruffled feathers, dopiness and closed eyes
  • death of small proportions of the chicken flocks of 3% to 15%.

Signs of HPAI

HPAI should be considered as a possible cause if a high proportion of a flock or group of birds become ill very quickly, progressing from normal to gravely ill or dead within 24 to 48 hours.

Clinical signs may include:

  • sudden death
  • respiratory distress
  • swelling and purple discolouration of the head, comb, wattles and neck
  • coughing, sneezing or rasping respiration
  • rapid drop in feed intake, water intake and egg production
  • typical 'sick bird' signs — for example, ruffled feathers, dopiness and closed eyes
  • diarrhoea
  • occasionally, nervous symptoms.

Differential diagnoses include acute fowl cholera, respiratory disease complex and other exotic diseases such as Newcastle disease.

Australian response to HPAI

State and Commonwealth governments and the national chicken meat and egg industries have formally agreed to share the costs of responding to an outbreak of LPAI or HPAI. This helps to ensure that a rapid and effective emergency response can be immediately mounted if the disease occurs.

Owners may be eligible for compensation if birds or property must be destroyed to eradicate the disease.

Procedures generally include:

  • slaughter out of infected and in-contact poultry
  • decontamination
  • strict quarantine
  • movement controls to prevent spread of infection
  • tracing and surveillance to locate the extent of infection.

Vaccination might be an option in some circumstances.

Wild bird surveillance program

A Wild Bird Surveillance program is in place across Australia, supported by Wildlife Health Australia.

Report an unusual sign of disease or death in wild birds.

More information

Page last updated: 03 Aug 2020