What is avian influenza?
Avian influenza, also called bird flu, is a disease that can affect all types of poultry and is very contagious. On farms, laying hens and fattening turkeys are usually the most affected.
Often the primary source of transmission is from wild birds that come into contact with farm animals.
The virus responsible for avian influenza is influenzavirus A. There are several subtypes of the virus classified on the basis of antigenic relationships in the virus glycoproteins hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N). Currently, 15 H subtypes (H1-H15) and nine neuraminidase subtypes (N1- N9) have been recognized.
Depending on the type of virus, avian influenza can be more or less harmful
Highly pathogenic strains (highly pathogenic avian influenza) are highly lethal to poultry, while less severe strains (low pathogenic avian influenza) induce a milder disease with low mortality rates.
Viruses currently circulating
In China, a 41-year-old man living in the eastern province of Jiangsu was diagnosed with avian influenza on May 28. The virus responsible for the disease is H10N3.
The H10N3 virus is still poorly understood but does not appear to be lethal to poultry and poses no danger to humans. However, further in-depth studies are needed.
In addition to this type of virus, found in China, several European countries have been affected by cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) since October 2020, caused by viruses of the H5 subtype.
What are the symptoms of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)?
The main symptoms observed in poultry are:
- Losss of appetite
- Stop laying eggs
- Nervous signs
- Decoloration of combs and wattles
- Coughing, sneezing and diarrhea
- Sudden death (even in the absence of symptoms)
What are the symptoms of low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI)?
The least harmful strain of the virus causes the following symptoms in poultry populations:
- Mild respiratory disorders
- Reduced egg laying
Although low-pathogenicity viruses do not cause serious problems in the poultry population, it is important to monitor the spread and report it to the appropriate authorities. Indeed, LPAI virus strains can mutate into highly pathogenic viruses.
Can avian influenza be transmitted to humans?
Although avian influenza is basically a disease that affects birds; it may happen that some variants are adapted to other species of animals, including humans.
However, the virus is hardly transmissible from person to person. In fact, many cases of avian influenza are found in farmers who are in close contact with poultry populations.
The risk that this type of virus can cause pandemics similar to that of SarsCov-2 is very low. In any case, research is very active in this area, to better understand the risks that avian influenza brings to humans.
What prevention methods should be implemented in facilities?
In order to prevent the spread of avian influenza as much as possible, at the first signs of a possible avian influenza outbreak, it is critical to follow certain procedures to prevent large-scale spread.
- Clean facility surfaces and equipment ( including boots, gloves and other protective equipment) with warm water and detergent.
- Disinfect the facility with a chemical ( such as ethyl alcohol). There are a variety of machines on the market that facilitate the spread of disinfectants in facilities.
- Be sure to also clean any vehicles used on the farm to prevent the spread of the virus to other facilities in the vicinity.
- In addition to sanitizing, the appropriate veterinary authorities should be contacted to inform them of a possible outbreak of avian influenza.
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