Australian poultry producer culling stock after second case of bird flu

One farm is losing more than 300,000 hens.
One farm is losing more than 300,000 hens. Photo credit: Getty.

An Australia poultry producer is culling stock after a confirmed case of avian influenza, the second in Victoria in less than two weeks. 

In a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange, Farm Pride Foods company secretary Bruce De Lacy said there had been a positive case of H7N7 avian influenza virus at its Lethbridge facility. The company last week put its shares into a trading halt.  

"To control the spread of avian influenza, the farm will be depopulated… this is due to commence as soon as possible," he said.

De Lacy said the approximate number of hens lost - which includes cage, free-range and barn - totals 340,000, representing 30 percent of the productive flock. The financial impact of the incident was still being determined but "it is considered material".

It's the second recent case of the influenza in the area, after a case was confirmed on July 31. 

"Movement controls have been put in place in Golden Plains Shire and the affected properties have been quarantined. These controls prohibit, until further notice, the movement of birds, equipment and products within and out of, the designated restricted and control area, except under permit issued by Agriculture Victoria," Victoria's agriculture department said in a statement. 

"To control the spread of avian influenza, birds on the first affected property have been destroyed. Agriculture Victoria has quarantined the second property and will undertake required depopulation, disposal and decontamination."

The Victoria Department of Health and Human Services said the H7N7 virus is not a risk to the public as it "rarely affects humans unless there is direct and close contact with sick birds".

"There are no food safety issues identified; properly cooked chicken meat and eggs are safe to eat."

According to IBISWorld senior industry analyst Matthew Reeves, Victoria accounts for about 25 percent of Australia's total output from the egg farming industry. 

"The emergence of the H7N7 avian influenza virus represents a minimal threat to humans, but is devastating to poultry livestock. This virus is a real threat to the poultry supply chain."

Victoria is also experiencing a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, resulting in heavy restrictions being imposed across the state.