Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Circulates Globally

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While the world is still focused on SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing the COVID-19 pandemic, US animal health officials and poultry producers have been monitoring and taking action to prevent the spread of another highly pathogenic virus-Avian Influenza-from entering the country. As reported on the website of the Office of Epizooties (the World Organization for Animal Health) the following countries have recently reported outbreaks of strains (H5N5, H5N7, or H5N8) of Highly Pathogenic Influenza Virus causing disease and death in non-poultry and/or poultry*:

Non-poultry including wild birds affected

Country Strain of HPAI Reported Date of Onset Poultry affected Non-poultry including wild birds affected
Germany H5N5 Oct. 30, 2020 Not reported Reported
Netherlands H5N5 Nov. 27, 2020 Not reported Reported
Belgium H5N5 Nov. 18, 2020 Reported Not reported
Poland H5N8 Nov. 23, 2020 Reported Not reported
Slovenia H5N8 Nov. 17, 2020 Not reported Reported
Russia H5N8 Sept. 18, 2020 Reported Reported
France H5N8 Nov. 7, 2020 Not reported Reported
Iran H5N8 Nov. 19, 2020 Not reported Reported
Croatia H5N8 Nov. 17, 2020 Reported Not reported
Kazakhstan H5 Sept. 11, 2020 Reported Not reported
Japan H5N8 Nov. 4, 2020 Reported Not reported
United Kingdom H5N8 Nov. 3, 2020 Not reported Reported
Sweden H5N8 Nov. 13, 2020 Reported Not reported
Denmark H5N8 Nov. 15, 2020 Reported Not reported
Korea H5N8 Oct. 21, 2020 Not reported Reported
Australia H7N7 July 24, 2020 Reported Not reported

*This is not intended to be a comprehensive list, nor has each report from each country been reviewed. Please visit the OIE website for complete information.

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Veterinary Services (VS) has restricted importation of certain avian commodities originating from some of these countries, including, e.g.,

“The importation of poultry, commercial birds, ratites, avian hatching eggs, unprocessed avian products and byproducts, and certain fresh poultry products from the State of Victoria, Australia. Any of these commodities originating from or transiting through the State of Victoria, Australia are prohibited, based on the diagnosis of highly pathogenic avian influenza in domestic birds. APHIS had previously restricted all of Australia, effective July 24, 2020. This Alert is decreasing the size of the affected zone.

See Import Alert (Australia), issued on November 25, 2020.

“Effective November 21, 2020, and until further notice, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Veterinary Services (VS) is restricting the importation of poultry, commercial birds, ratites, avian hatching eggs, unprocessed avian products and byproducts, and certain fresh poultry products from Croatia. Any of these commodities originating from or transiting through Croatia are prohibited, based on the diagnosis of highly pathogenic avian influenza in domestic birds.

See Import Alert (Croatia), issued on November 25, 2020.

“Effective November 25, 2020, and until further notice, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Veterinary Services (VS) is adding Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan, to the list of regions of Japan affected by HPAI. APHIS is restricting the importation of poultry, commercial birds, ratites, avian hatching eggs, unprocessed avian products and byproducts, and certain fresh poultry products from the Kagawa and Fukuoka Prefectures, Japan. Any of these commodities originating from or transiting through Kagawa or Fukuoka Prefectures, Japan, are prohibited, based on the diagnosis of highly pathogenic avian influenza in domestic birds.

See Import Alert (Japan), issued on November 25, 2020.

At least one state veterinarian, Dr. Kevin Brightbill of Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture, is warning the poultry industry “to step up their biosecurity practices as East Asia and Europe report cases of a highly-pathogenic Avian influenza,” as reported in New Castle News. See Avian influenza strain calls for flock protection.

The largest and most devastating animal health disaster in US history-occurred in December 2014 when a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus entered the US in migrating wild birds.

During that outbreak, federal and state governments spent $879 million on the outbreak response which impacted 21 states leading to the depopulation of more than 50 million birds on 232 farms and trade embargoes affecting over 200,000 farms, with a total cost of $3.3 B to the US economy.

Avian influenza viruses occur naturally in wild aquatic birds who serve as natural hosts (reservoirs) of the low pathogenic version of the virus.

They spread the virus to domestic poultry (chickens, turkeys), who if infected may be asymptomatic, or have mild clinical signs (ruffled feathers, decreased egg production).

The greatest concerns about this virus is its ability to mutate to a highly pathogenic version which could potentially infect people. Thankfully, no such mutations have been reported in the recent outbreaks and there are no reports of human illness related to HPAI.

[View source.]

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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