AUSTRALIA – In Victoria, Australia, a seventh poultry farm has fallen victim to a highly pathogenic avian influenza, as confirmed by the state government on Monday.

Six of the affected farms are battling the H7N3 strain, while the seventh is dealing with the H7N9 strain.

Fortunately, neither of these strains is the highly feared H5N1 variant that has decimated bird populations worldwide and sparked concerns about human transmission.

The state’s agriculture department has imposed restricted and control zones around all infected sites to prevent further spread.

The outbreak has primarily impacted six egg farms and a duck farm.

As a containment measure, approximately one million chickens, representing about 5% of Australia’s egg-laying hens, have either been culled or are slated for culling.

Despite these measures, egg supply remains stable, though some retailers have started limiting purchases to prevent shortages.

This recent wave of infections began in May, marking Australia’s first encounter with highly pathogenic avian influenza since last month.

Prior to these incidents, Australia had recorded nine such outbreaks since 1976, all of which were successfully contained and eradicated.

Authorities continue to reassure the public that poultry products, including eggs and meat from ducks and chickens, remain safe for consumption.

The initial detection of the H7 HPAI strain this year occurred on May 22, 2024, at a poultry farm near Meredith in the Golden Plains Shire, Victoria.

H5N1, a different avian influenza strain, has shown the capability to infect over 350 bird species and nearly 60 mammal species, with migratory waterfowl like ducks, swans, geese, and gulls being particularly vulnerable.

These waterfowl often act as asymptomatic carriers, spreading the virus along their migratory paths and facilitating genetic and virulent adaptations of the virus.

Emerging evidence suggests that climate change is exacerbating the spread of zoonotic viruses such as H5N1.

Altered global climate conditions are shifting avian migratory patterns, leading to the emergence of diseases in previously unaffected regions.

Higher temperatures and extreme weather events have driven significant population shifts among temperate species, resulting in novel and unexpected viral configurations.

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