Ban on poultry products from Victoria

By Mavuku Tokona

Vanuatu has placed a ban on all imported poultry products from Victoria, Australia, due to the Avian Influenza, Acting Principal Veterinary Officer of Biosecurity Dr Roger Philips confirmed this week.

The Biosecurity doctor stated that they (Biosecurity) were informed of an outbreak West of Victoria and had to take measures to protect Vanuatu poultry.

“We received a formal notification of an outbreak of AVIAN influenza commonly called bird flu.

“We have a ban on all poultry products from the state of Victoria, from other states such as New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia it’s fine, we have just put a stop to the import of poultry from Victoria to remove any possible risk of any devastating disease from Vanuatu,” Dr. Philips said.

According to Dr. Philips, the ban is a necessary not just for commercial farms in Vanuatu, but to safe-keep the chickens in villages and communities as well – “eradicate the disease would prove very difficult especially with the village, our fowl situation in Vanuatu there are many chickens, a lot of many people keep chickens and it would be a disease that would spread easily and to control it would be an economic disaster”.

The Acting Principal Veterinary Officer of Biosecurity emphasized that there isn’t much of a public concern since the Bird Flu is known to only affect birds, nonetheless, Vanuatu still needs to keep the disease out.

“It’s primarily a chicken disease, in 2009 with the H1N1 virus, which was infecting people but primarily it’s a disease of chicken and poultry, not really a public health concern but it is destructive to the poultry industry.”

As for the situation in Victoria, Dr. Philips reported that the three farms have been placed in quarantine with a 5km radius, “stop vehicles coming in and out of there, being a virus it spreads on peoples’ feet, clothing, vehicle tyres, it means you have to have a containment zone around the farm. I think it spread to three farms from the first farm, it spread to two other farms in Victoria.”

Bird Flu has a high mortality rate so infected chickens are unlikely to recover which makes highly concentrated chicken farms an easy target for the influenza to spread – “it’s one of the world’s most leading concern with poultry growers along with another disease called new castle disease”.

Before Vanuatu can lift the ban on Victorian poultry, a declaration by the state that they are free from the disease must be made public.

“We require certification from the veterinary authority from exporting countries to state that zone, state or country is free of AVIAN influenza and new castle disease, of course they can’t be certain right now from Australia, so no reports are possible.”

Currently, Australia has actioned their response plan to contain and eradicate the Avian Flu, until a declaration is made by the state of Victoria the ban stays Dr. Philip said.

“Border security officers are aware, until a declaration of freedom from that state of that disease, we have this ban in place.”