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Laboratory confirms avian influenza

Suspect EADs receive priority processing. Sampling and diagnostic testing will be undertaken at both state and national laboratories to confirm diagnosis and to type the strain of virus. Virus typing may take up to 48 hours. Pathogenicity tests and virus isolation may take up to 10 days (AUSVETPLAN Avian Influenza manual (PDF download)).

The results come back as highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), subtype H7.

Click the headings below for more information.

Does the pathogenicity of the virus affect the response?

If this virus is a highly pathogenic strain, an emergency disease outbreak would be declared. Movement restrictions would be initiated by the animal health authority in that jurisdiction, and trade of poultry products would be stalled until further investigation was undertaken.

If the diagnosis indicated a Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI), action to control the spread of infection is still necessary, particularly for H5 or H7 subtypes, since it is possible that the virus will mutate and become highly pathogenic for chickens.

Pathogenicity and strain type will also affect which EAD Response Agreement category the outbreak falls under. H5 and H7 sub-types of AI are considered under the EADRA regardless of whether they are high or law pathogenicity.

All H5/H7 detections are notifiable to the OIE, whether they are HPAI or LPAI.

Do private vets have to be involved?

Depending on the size and location of the outbreak, the disease in question and state or territory resources available, private veterinarians may be directly engaged by state or territory governments on contract as temporary or casual government employees. In a large outbreak where a significant EAD response is expected, large numbers of personnel with technical skills such as veterinarians are required.

“There is no obligation to be directly involved. However veterinarians eligible for registration in an Australian jurisdiction are encouraged to make themselves available if possible." (Department of Agriculture and Water Resources 2016)

For more information on engagement of private veterinarians go here.

If the response is small and the outbreak is mostly contained to a small number of farms, then private veterinarians are a valued resource for building awareness of the disease in the community and reporting any suspicious cases that present to them. It is a legal obligation for veterinarians to report signs of a possible EAD to the appropriate animal health jurisdiction.

What happens if I have had a confirmed case in my clinic?

Hopefully you have taken biosecurity precautions during and after the consultations with the sick birds. Disinfection of the area in which the birds were in using appropriate disinfectants and restricting use of the contaminated spaces would be a minimum (AUSVETPLAN Avian Influenza manual (PDF download) – See Section 2.2.10 of version 3.4, 2011).

As some types of AI have zoonotic potential, human health authorities will likely be investigating anyone who has been in direct contact with the infected birds. In any case, any staff or clients that begin to display flu-like symptoms should contact their doctor immediately.

If AI is confirmed, the clinic may be placed under movement restrictions quarantine until further investigation and sampling can be completed.

Next steps for Dave

The diagnosis triggers the initiation of an emergency response. At this point, the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries takes over, communicating directly with Dave. With a clear history of exposure, and the zoonotic potential of the disease, they have the local public health unit follow up with Dave and his family, as well as you, Donna and the rest of the vet clinic team. The public health unit will also investigate the provision of eggs to the school, and any other potential exposures.