Global Poultry Industry on Alert as Bird Flu Outbreaks Spread

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Published Nov 19, 2021
According to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), numerous outbreaks of severe bird flu have recently spread across Asia and the EU, placing the poultry industry on high alert. Recent bird flu outbreaks in Japan, China, South Korea, France, Italy, the Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium, Poland, Norway, and the Netherlands have led to the culling of tens of millions of birds. Affected nations fear further trade restrictions following Namibia’s ban of poultry products from Germany and the Netherlands.

Recent bird flu outbreaks. (Source: World Organisation for Animal Health)

Bird flu cases in Asia spread rapidly

About 770K chickens were culled following an outbreak at a farm in Chungcheongbuk-do, South Korea. In early November, an outbreak of the H5N8 serotype was reported at a poultry farm in the northeast of Japan, the first outbreak of the winter season. Currently, three outbreaks have been confirmed in Japan, with the third detection occurring at a poultry farm in Izumi City in Kagoshima prefecture. According to the Japanese agriculture ministry, 11K egg-laying chickens at the farm were affected.

Recent outbreaks of the H5N6 subtype of avian influenza have spread through China, spreading to the human population. China has recorded 21 cases of the H5N6 subtype of bird flu in 2021, compared with only 5 in 2020, increasing concern that the strain could be more infectious than past variants. China is currently the leading global poultry producer and top producer of ducks, which act as a reservoir for flu viruses. According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the improving genetic diversity and geographical distribution of the H5N6 strain pose a severe threat to the country’s poultry industry. According to the Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases at the Food and Agriculture Organization (ECTAD), China vaccinates poultry against bird flu. However, the vaccine used in 2020 partially protects against emerging viruses, preventing significant outbreaks but allowing the virus to spread.

Europe suffers the highest number of bird flu outbreaks

The EU has been most affected by the recent bird flu outbreaks, with the Czech Republic and Germany becoming the latest nations to detect avian influenza within their borders. According to the State Veterinary Administration, the less-pathogenic H5N1 was reported at a commercial poultry farm in Rohozna, Czech Republic. About 5K birds at the farm were culled, and a protective, 2km perimeter will be placed around the farm to contain the disease. Germany has also reported several outbreaks of the disease. According to the OIE, in October, northern Germany suffered an outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu at a farm of 663 birds. A similar scenario occurred in Verona, Italy, affecting a flock of about 13K.

(Source: The Poultry Site)

In the EU, an outbreak of the H5N1 bird flu was reported in the Rogaland region in Norway, killing 221 poultry birds, with the remaining 7K birds slaughtered. The Belgian government placed the nation at high risk for bird flu following a highly pathogenic variant of bird flu in Antwerp in November. The Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (AFSCA), Belgium’s food safety agency, has ordered containment measures to avoid further contamination and damage to farmers. A similar scenario occurred in France in November. In France, the bird flu level reached alert following a severe case of the disease in the northeast of the country. Reinforced prevention measures will be implemented in the country to safeguard poultry farms.

The Netherlands has suffered two outbreaks this year. According to the Netherlands agriculture ministry, a case of highly pathogenic H5 bird flu was reported at a layer farm in Zeewolde, Flevoland, leading to the culling of 36K birds on the farm. Movement restrictions have also been placed on poultry farms in the 10km area surrounding the farm. A ban has also been placed on exhibiting poultry, the practice of raising poultry for showcasing purposes. The restrictions will affect birds, eggs, and poultry. According to Wageningen Bioveterinary Research (WBVR), another outbreak of the H5 avian influenza has been reported in Tzum, leading to the culling of 122,500 birds.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) infections as of October 2021 at Dutch poultry farms and hobby farms with 50 or more birds. (Source: Wageningen)

Market Impact

Namibia has suspended imports of live poultry, and poultry products from Germany, and the Netherlands following bird flu outbreaks. Poultry shipments packed from the 1st of October in Germany, and the 5th of October in the Netherlands will be returned or destroyed at a cost to the importer. Following the recent outbreak in China, Guilin city in the Guangxi region has suspended live poultry trading in 13 urban markets and could abolish the trade within a year. In early November, Japan temporarily halted shipments of chicken meat and eggs from all regions after the first outbreak.


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