High Path Bird Flu Reappears on U.S. Soil

Published with permission by Poultry Times.  Originally posted on 

Written by Barbara Olejnik

The U.S. poultry industry has been put on notice that the H5N2 strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza has again been found on U.S. soil.

USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service has confirmed that the virus was detected in a single hunter-harvested wild mallard duck in Fergus County, Montana.

While there have been no additional detections, as of Jan. 9, of avian influenza in either wild or domestic birds in Montana, USDA stresses the need for good biosecurity programs on poultry farms.

“This appears to be one of the strains we saw during the outbreak in 2014 and 2015,” said Dr. Jack Shere, USDA chief veterinarian. “This finding serves as a powerful reminder that there is still avian influenza circulating in wild birds, and producers and industry need to continue to be vigilant about biosecurity to protect domestic poultry.”

The 2015 outbreak killed more than 48 million birds in 223 separate outbreaks across the country and caused U.S. trading partners to ban U.S. egg exports. Revenue for the poultry industry dropped $400 million, or 14 percent, in the first half of 2015 as compared to the previous year.

The U.S. egg industry has since rebounded with a surplus of product. But while the U.S. has a surplus, other countries have egg shortages due to outbreaks of avian influenza.

One such country is South Korea which has seen its worst-ever bird flu epidemic with a record 31 million birds being culled since November last year. This has led to a shortage of eggs just ahead of the peak egg demand for the Lunar New Year holiday season at the end of January.

To help ease the shortage, the U.S. and South Korea reached an agreement in which a total of 2.98 million fresh eggs will be shipped via airlines from the U.S. to South Korea.

As part of the agreement, South Korea waived all duties on U.S. egg products, including shell egg and liquid egg products through June 2017.

This is the first fresh egg imports from the U.S. to South Korea.

First outbreaks

In Europe and Asia, the H5N8 strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza is continuing its onslaught against the poultry industry with several countries reporting first-ever outbreaks of the H5N8 strain.

First-ever outbreaks have been reported in Ukraine, Italy, Spain, Slovenia and the Czech Republic, according to reports from the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Ukraine reported three outbreaks, one involving a wild bird and two in poultry, one at a farm and one in backyard birds. Between the two poultry events, the virus killed 1,113 of 10,288 susceptible birds and the remaining were culled as a control measure.

In Italy, health officials confirmed the H5N8 virus in a Eurasian pigeon found dead in a lagoon in the northeast near the country’s border with Austria.

Spain’s first outbreak occurred in the Castilla and Leon community in the northwestern part of the country. Tests on two wild geese that were found dead in a lagoon were positive of H5N8. Response steps include increased surveillance and enhanced biosecurity at area poultry farms.

Slovenia reported three outbreaks, all involving wild mute swans found dead near ponds and the Drava River near Maribor, the country’s second-largest city.

The Czech Republic confirmed its first H5N8 outbreaks in two flocks of backyard birds in the southern part of the country. In the first outbreak near the town of Moravsky, 10 birds died and another 76 were destroyed. In the second outbreak 20 turkeys died in the nearby town of Ivancice.

A backyard flock was also the site of an outbreak of H5N8 in Croatia, which had previously reported the virus only in wild birds. Fifteen chickens and one turkey were found dead in the town of Pitomaca on the Hungarian border. Another 25 susceptible birds were destroyed.

New outbreaks

According to Jan. 9 OIE reports, the H5N8 virus hit more farms in Germany and Poland, with more wild bird detections in Finland, Germany and Sweden. Germany reported 2343 more H5N8 outbreaks, six at farms and 17 involving wild birds. Of nearly 84,000 vulnerable poultry, the virus sickened about 12,000 poultry, killed 154 of them and the remaining birds were culled.

Poland reported 12 poultry outbreaks, six on farms and six involving backyard birds. The outbreaks affected five different provinces and led to the culling of nearly 140,000 birds.

Other European developments involving H5N8, according to Jan. 12 reports from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) include:

Poland — two more poultry outbreaks, one in backyard birds and one at a farm. The virus killed 208 of 245 birds at the two locations with the rest destroyed to curb spread of the disease.

The Netherlands — two more outbreaks affected a total of 55 wild birds, both in villages in the central part of the country.

Romania — four more outbreaks, three involving wild birds, including whooper swans and mute swans, and one in backyard poultry.

Slovakia — two more outbreaks, one in Muscovy ducks at a zoo in Kosice, and one in mute swans found dead in a pond near a village in the Nitra region in the west.

Other nations

The H5N8 continues to hit poultry outside of Europe that reported earlier outbreaks, according to the OIE.

Egypt reported an outbreak in backyard birds in Sharqia governorate in the north, killing 889 of 190 susceptible ducks and chickens.

India reported 23 more outbreaks, all involving village poultry in Kerala state between Oct. 19 and Nov. 24, 2016. The virus killed 66,571 of 714,090 susceptible birds with the remaining ones culled.

In Taiwan the agriculture ministry reported four more H5N8 outbreaks in poultry in four slaughterhouses along with two more HPAI outbreaks of the H5N2 strain on farms in Yunlin County. The events are part of a series of outbreaks involving both strains that have been underway since early 2015.