Avian influenza (AI), most commonly known as bird flu, is a highly contagious disease that primarily affects birds, but in rare cases, has also been known to infect humans. Avian influenza, which is classified as a notifiable disease in the UK, is caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory system of many birds, including chickens, turkeys, ducks. In most cases, avian influenza causes severe illness and death in the infected birds, with chickens being known to have a mortality rate of between 90-100%, once infected.
The UK is currently in the midst of its worst outbreak on record with over 120 cases of avian influenza being recorded since the beginning of the 2021 to 2022 season, with cases surpassing the time the season usually ends. There remains no cure for the disease, with limited options being presented in order to stop the spread.
When was avian influenza discovered?
The first documented description of avian influenza dates back to 1878 in Northern Italy, where E.Perroncito mentioned it in a study that was reported at the Turin academy of agriculture. In his study, it was described as a contagious disease with a high mortality rate in poultry. At this time it was associated with fowl plague, until 1880, where it became evident it was a different disease. In 1955, it was identified that it was a disease caused by a type A influenza virus.
From 1996 to 2008 there were 11 outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), with 4 of these outbreaks affecting millions of birds. Statistics show that in the 1990’s, the world’s poultry population grew 76% in developing countries, which is believed to have contributed to the increased prevalence of avian influenza.
Since the 1990s, avian influenza has been attributed to 2 subtypes, which have been found in poultry worldwide, low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) and high pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).
Due to the virality of the virus, certain strains of avian influenza have become endemic in countries across the world.
H9N2, a low pathogenic strain of avian influenza (LPAI) has been particularly prevalent across Asia, becoming endemic in poultry across many Asian countries, especially China.
Some strains of the virus have also shown to develop over time, especially the highly pathogenic, H5N1. First emerging in China in 1996, H5N1 has spread globally, affecting both wild birds and poultry. This strain has caused millions of deaths in birds across the world, and in some incredibly rare cases, has also infected humans. H5N1, which is the strain currently affecting the UK, is now considered a zoonotic threat in many countries.
In commercial poultry farming, an outbreak of avian influenza can cause a substantial financial loss to farmers, invoke costly operational downtime, encourage reputational damage as well as distress to the poultry, workers and farmers.
There is no cure for avian influenza, which means prevention is the only way to protect your flock. Poultry and bird owners must implement strict biosecurity measures in order to mitigate the risks of an outbreak occurring on their premises, as this is the best and only way to prevent the spread of the deadly disease.
Livetec Systems are experts in biosecurity
Livetec are committed to helping British farmers meet the challenges of biosecurity and disease prevention, now and in the future.
We have been at the forefront of biosecurity and disease prevention for over a decade, helping British farmers to protect their flocks using our years of on-farm experience and extensive scientific research to provide comprehensive biosecurity and contingency plans to build the future of livestock protection.
Our team of experts are on hand to help poultry farmers across the country to keep their flocks healthy and productive, even in an emergency.
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