AVIAN influenza (H7) has been confirmed in a flock of 400,000 layer hens near Young, NSW chief veterinary officer Ian Roth confirmed late on Tuesday afternoon.
Avian influenza in birds does not easily cause disease in humans, according to the Department of Agriculture.
“The results confirm that this virus is the H7 avian influenza strain, NOT the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain that has gained worldwide attention,” Mr Roth said. Biosecurity guidleines for bird owners, poultry farmers and egg producers
The results were confirmed by the NSW Department of Primary Industries’ (DPI) State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories at the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute and CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory.
There have been over 340 human deaths from H5N1 avian influenza in the world - which has never been reported in Australia - since the virus first emerged in 2003.
There have been five outbreaks of other highly pathogenic avian influenza strains in commercial bird flocks in Australia, all of which were successfully eradicated. The last reported case was in 1997 in Tamworth, NSW. Previous outbreaks occurred in commercial poultry farms in Victoria (1976, 1985 and 1992) and Queensland (1994).
“The property has been quarantined and DPI’s First Response Team has been activated to oversee the response and work with the property owners and the egg industry," Mr Roth said.
“The remaining birds on the property will now be culled in line with national agreements.
“Control restrictions are now in place within a 10 kilometre radius of the quarantined egg farm and extensive surveillance and tracing is now underway to ensure the virus does not spread.”
The NSW Food Authority has confirmed that there are no food safety issues and that poultry and eggs remain safe to eat.
"There is no evidence that eating food from farms that have been affected by avian influenza have ever caused human illness," NSW Food Authority chief scientist Lisa Szabo said.
Transmission to humans occurs predominantly through handling live or dead infected birds or very close contact with them and their excretions.
People do not get infected with avian influenza through eating properly cooked chicken meat and eggs, the Department stated.
Mr Roth said Australia has previously had a small number of outbreaks of H7 avian influenza viruses which were all quickly and successfully eradicated.
“Late last year, the DPI and Livestock Health and Pest Authority (LHPA) successfully eradicated an outbreak of H7 avian influenza at an egg farm near Maitland,” Mr Roth said.
People who notice sick or dead birds should contact their local veterinarian or call the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline 1800 675 888.
For further information on avian influenza visit www.dpi.nsw.gov.au. Biosecurity guidleines for bird owners, poultry farmers and egg producers are available here.