In mid November 2021 cases of H5N1 Avian Influenza (bird flu) started to be reported in Israel and have been spreading across the Eastern Hemisphere. The virus is thought to be spreading by migratory birds. Since the New Year, several outbreaks have been reported and mass cullings have begun in Bulgaria, Netherlands, UK and Israel. Should this be a concern to the Western farmer in 2022? Let's look at the info we have right now.
1/5/22 - According to the Ministry of Agriculture, one in five wild cranes living in or migrating through Israel has been infected with the bird flu virus. The virus is thought to have spread from the Margaliot Moshe on the Lebanese border.
It is noted that local farmers have not been able to report in real time the increase in mortality among poultry, which led to the rapid spread of the virus. Many chickens died by the time inspectors from the ministry arrived to inspect. Only 70 of the 2,000 hens in one hen house have survived. The ministry has already announced that 320,000 laying hens will be killed in the Margaliot area in the coming days.
1/6/22 - Thursday the Ministry of Agriculture stated that the total number of chickens and turkeys detected with the pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza during the current spread has surpassed 1 million. These bird flu cases have been detected since mid-November '21 in northern and southern Israel, especially in the last three weeks. Following the detections, it is necessary to kill all infected chickens, turkeys and ducks, according to the ministry, which has lead to an egg shortage across Israel.
On January 3, the killing of more than 39,000 laying hens began at two poultry farms in the Haskovo village of Krivo Pole. The outbreak of bird flu was confirmed on the last day of 2021 by the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency (BFSA). A 3 Kilometer Protection Zone and a 10 Kilometer Monitored Zone have been set up to monitor and stop the spread.
Netherlands - Variant Identified
1/3/22 - A highly contagious variant of bird flu has been identified in broilers in Blija, Friesland. To prevent further spread, around 220,000 broilers are being culled at two poultry farms as a precaution, reports the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA). These are two companies owned by the same owner. In one company there are 177,000 animals and 100 meters away in the other company there are another 45,000 chicks that are culled as a precaution. There are no other companies in a zone of 1 kilometer around the infected companies. A transport ban is in effect immediately in a zone of 10 kilometers around the companies concerned. With the bird flu outbreak in Blija, more than 730,000 animals have been destroyed since the end of October 2021.
UK - Bird to Human Transmission
1/6/22 - A rare case of bird flu has been detected in a person living in south-west England, health officials have confirmed.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said the unnamed person acquired the infection from close and regular contact with a large number of infected birds, which they kept in and around their home over a prolonged period of time.
Bird-to-human transmission of avian flu is very rare and has occurred only a small number of times in the UK previously. The infected person is well and self-isolating, and the risk to the wider public from avian flu remains very low.
Prof Mike Tildesley, a professor in infectious disease modelling at the University of Warwick, said: “This is clearly going to be big news but the key thing is that human infections with H5N1 are really rare and they almost always occur as a result of direct, long-term contact with poultry. There has never been any evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission of H5N1, so at present I wouldn’t consider this to be a significant public health risk.”
“It remains critical that people do not touch sick or dead birds, and that they follow the DEFRA [Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] advice about reporting.”
The UK’s chief veterinary officer, Christine Middlemiss, said: “We are seeing a growing number of cases in birds on both commercial farms and in back yard flocks across the country. Implementing scrupulous biosecurity measures will help keep your birds safe.”
US & Western Farmers
There has not been any detection of H5N1 Avian Influenza in the United States as of 1/7/22. It also has not been found in the rest of the western hemisphere, including Canada, Mexico, and Central and South America.
Western farmers, both commercial and back yard growers, should take caution with this new spread of H5N1 avian influenza occurring over seas. Growers need to aware and continue to monitor this spread as it may eventually affect the US and other Western areas. Continue to utilize the strict biosecurity measures already established on your farms. If you have not yet established biosecurity measures on your farm - this is the time to get started! Be aware of the virus and keep an eye on mortality rates. Report any findings to your Integrator and/or local agricultural extension service.
There is ongoing surveillance throughout the US and the world to look for "bird flu" in migratory waterfowl. In the US, the US Department of Agriculture, US Department of the Interior and the US Department of Health and Human Services work together on this surveillance.