Suspected chicken virus discovered on Otago poultry farms

There is no food safety risk with the virus .
There is no food safety risk with the virus . Photo credit: Getty

Biosecurity officials are investigating the possible detection of a poultry virus on two Otago egg farms, which had earlier been successfully eradicated from New Zealand.

One farm, Mainland Poultry farm in Waikouaiti, is under voluntary biosecurity controls as a precautionary measure, after what could be Infectious Bursal Disease Virus type 1 was discovered.

Biosecurity New Zealand response manager David Yard said no birds at the Mainland Poultry have disease symptoms, however preliminary test results indicate the virus is highly likely to be present on the property.

Further testing overseas is required to confirm the virus, with results expected around mid-September.

A second Mainland property, near the Waikouaiti facility, had returned suspect results which are in the early stages of the confirmation process.

Departmental chief scientist Dr John Roche said the virus could affect the immune system of young chickens but it posed no risk to human health or the health of other animals.

"There is no food safety risk with this virus and people should have no concern eating chicken meat or eggs. There will be no impact on domestic egg and chicken meat supply," he said.

Biosecurity New Zealand was waiting for final confirmation from the overseas laboratory it would stop issuing certificates for the export of chicken products to countries that require a guarantee that we are IBDV type 1 free. 

That involved the trade in poultry meat and poultry products to four countries, with Australia being the largest importer of New Zealand chicken meat.

Biosecurity New Zealand was now working with the egg and poultry industries to understand, if confirmed as positive, the scale of the situation and what control or eradication measures are available.

David Yard said while this work is underway, Biosecurity New Zealand is reviewing operational measures at the farm to assess, if confirmed present, the risk of spread to other sites. 

Testing of other South Island layer and meat chicken farms is underway.

Biosecurity New Zealand and industry will work together to consider options to manage the situation, balancing the impacts of the disease if confirmed, against the costs and benefits of any control measures.

There are two different types of IBDV - Types 1 and 2. 

Type 2 is already in New Zealand and causes no significant health issues in the national flock and is of no-trade concern. The current suspect result is for Type 1.

IBDV type 1 was discovered in New Zealand in 1993. 

An industry-led programme to eradicate has meant New Zealand has been able to claim the absence of the disease. Most other countries in the world have this virus and successfully manage it within the industry.

If the presence of IBDV type 1 is confirmed, Biosecurity New Zealand investigators would look at how the virus could have entered New Zealand,  including imported veterinary medicines, travelling farm workers and other imported goods.