FAQs related to Low pathogenic virus no cause for concern
For more information on human influenza and up-to-date NZ pandemic information, visit www.moh.govt.nz/pandemicinfluenza .
For international information visit the World Health Organisation at www.who.int/csr/don .
For information on countries where birds are affected, you can visit the OIE website at www.oie.int/downld/AVIAN%20INFLUENZA/A_AI-Asia.htm .
The risk of bird flu entering New Zealand in migratory birds is considered very low but good biosecurity practices are crucial in minimising the likelihood of entry of any type of avian influenza virus.
The main symptoms to look for in poultry are:
- Sudden and unexpected deaths
- Rapid spread of disease throughout the flock
- Depression and loss of appetite
- A drop in egg production
- Nervous signs such as unusual head or neck posture, convulsions
- Swelling and blue combs and wattles
- Coughing, sneezing and diarrhoea
In the event of an outbreak of avian influenza in New Zealand MAF would activate its Technical Response Policies and Operational Plans.
All highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses will be stamped out. As with other animal disease responses, independent technical advice will be sought and a number of response options evaluated to decide the best response option.
In addition to enhanced biosecurity in collaboration with poultry owners, response options include:
- Planned slaughter as part of normal management
- Movement control of risk goods
- Tracing and local surveillance to locate the source of infection and determine the extent of spread
World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) reporting requirements for avian influenza and New Zealand's commitment as part of a global network for the early detection and warning of highly pathogenic notifiable avian influenza (HPNAI) infection means that stringent surveillance is needed.
New Zealand has been undertaking surveillance in wild birds, including migratory shorebirds & waders, local waterfowl and other species, since 1976. Testing of migratory birds has increased since the outbreaks in Asia and a comprehensive programme of surveillance in commercial chickens (turkeys, game birds, farmed ducks and geese) is ongoing.
These programmes provide the evidence needed to demonstrate to the OIE New Zealand’s freedom from highly pathogenic notifiable avian influenza.
For a summary report detailing New Zealand’s Avian Influenza Surveillance Programme see: http://www.biosecurity.govt.nz/files/biosec/pubs-media/pubs/surveillance/issue-34-2/surveillance-34-2.pdf (553 KB)
New Zealand is well prepared to respond to an outbreak of avian influenza. MAF has comprehensive response plans and policies for highly pathogenic avian influenza or any H5 and H7 subtypes of avian influenza as well as any other exotic strains of avian influenza of regulatory concern.
As a member of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), New Zealand is expected to conduct surveillance to demonstrate our freedom from highly pathogenic notifiable avian influenza (HPNAI).
Highly pathogenic notifiable avian influenza and all H5 or H7 subtypes of avian influenza virus are classed under the Biosecurity Act as a notifiable exotic disease in New Zealand. This means that any suspect case must be notified to MAF immediately.
Yes. New Zealand imports live chicken and turkey eggs from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. The eggs are hatched and the chicks reared in strict quarantine conditions under veterinary supervision, according to New Zealand import health standards. Strict biosecurity measures, stringent testing regimes for avian influenza and other exotic diseases and New Zealand's major poultry disease free status proves that this system is highly effective.
The New Zealand Food Safety Authority advises that avian influenza is not a risk in New Zealand in terms of food safety. Consumers can be confident that the raw poultry and table egg products purchased in New Zealand supermarkets are New Zealand produced and free from avian influenza.
There is no evidence that any of the human cases of avian influenza overseas occurred as a result of eating cooked poultry products. Human cases are generally a result of direct contact with live and infected birds or the consumption of raw poultry meat or blood.
There are some highly processed products which are imported including canned meat, chicken paste, powdered chicken stock, dried egg yolk and feathers. Any virus would have been killed during processing, posing no risk to either animal or human health.
No. There have been no imports of live birds to New Zealand since 1997, except for occasional zoo species such as flamingos.
MAF Biosecurity New Zealand Quarantine Officers inspect consignments of cargo, passengers, luggage and imported commodities using dogs and sophisticated X-ray equipment.
Potential routes of entry include illegal imports of poultry and unprocessed poultry products or the movement of contaminated fomites (virus in avian faecal material on packaging, clothing, equipment etc and other commodities from infected areas).
New Zealand prides itself on keeping disease at bay with strict biosecurity measures at the border and stringent testing regimes. Import Health Standards prevent entry in imported risk goods, and our unique major poultry disease-free status indicates that this system is highly effective.
Over 5000 samples have been taken from wild birds (migrating and resident species) in New Zealand since 1976. A small number of low pathogenic notifiable avian influenza viruses (H5 or H7 subtypes) have been found in healthy mallard ducks.
All influenza viruses are unstable and constantly changing. New human influenza viruses emerge every year.
Human pandemic viruses are very rare but occur when a new virus, to which humans have no immunity, emerges. Genetic studies have shown that some human pandemic influenza viruses have been derived from avian influenza viruses.
There is no evidence of H5N1 being readily transmitted from one person to another but recent information suggests this may have happened in a small number of cases where family members live in close proximity and/or have tended those that were ill.
Adaptation to, and evidence of, sustained spread between humans would indicate the emergence of a potential human influenza pandemic. To date, this has not happened.
Human cases of the H5N1 strain have been caught mainly by people in very close and prolonged contact with poultry in places such as markets and poultry farms, where there is a high density of different species of bird mixing, and where they are exposed to both live and dead birds and their droppings.
New Zealand does not have similar poultry rearing and marketing environments and there is little risk of people in New Zealand being infected through normal contact with birds.
The majority of avian influenza viruses cause no disease in their natural hosts and it is unknown why some strains become virulent in some species under certain circumstances, while others don't.
However; it is thought that inter-species mixing (i.e. quails, geese, ducks and chickens) and high bird population densities, such as those that occur in bird markets in China and other Asian countries, may promote interspecies transmission and subsequent re-assortment of the viruses.
Avian Influenza is a disease of birds caused by Influenza A viruses of the family Orthomyxoviridae. Avian influenza viruses are present worldwide and numerous 'subtypes' and 'strains' exist.
Avian influenza viruses are naturally present in many species of wild birds, especially water fowl (ducks and geese). Most are harmless and do not cause disease in humans or birds.
Strains of avian influenza can be categorised as low pathogenic (LPAI) or highly pathogenic (HPAI) on the basis of the severity of clinical signs in chickens. LPAI may cause mild clinical disease in chickens, but are of no concern to human health.
Certain strains of LPAI virus have changed to become highly pathogenic avian influenza. HPAI is a severe form of the disease that spreads quickly, causing sudden death in poultry. All outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in birds to date have been either H5 or H7 subtype viruses (strains of LPAI viruses that have changed to become HPAI), although not all H5 and H7 subtypes cause disease. The H5N1 (Asian strain) avian influenza virus, commonly referred to as bird flu is HPAI.