Philippines Bans Poultry Imports from Australia Amid Bird Flu Concerns

The Philippines has imposed a temporary ban on the importation of all poultry and bird products from Australia following recent outbreaks of bird flu in the country.

The ban, which took effect on Saturday, includes all types of wild and domestic birds, as well as poultry meat, day-old chicks, eggs, and semen.

As of April, Australia was the Philippines’ fourth-largest source of imported chicken meat, accounting for 4% of the total volume of chicken imports.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday that a child with H5N1 bird flu reported by Australia last month had traveled to Kolkata, raising concerns about the potential for the virus to spread to other countries.

A fifth poultry farm near Melbourne has also been infected with a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza, according to the government of Australia’s Victoria state.

The farm is situated close to three other farms where the H7N3 strain of avian flu had previously been detected.

Authorities noted that this new case was anticipated due to the proximity of the affected farms.

In addition to the H7N3 outbreaks, another farm in Victoria has reported an outbreak of a different strain, H7N9.

It is important to note that neither the H7N3 nor H7N9 strains are the same as the H5N1 strain, which has caused widespread concern due to its global transmission through bird and mammal populations and its potential to infect humans.

Victoria’s agriculture department is actively managing the situation, implementing measures to contain the spread of these avian flu strains.

The focus remains on preventing further outbreaks and protecting both poultry and public health from these highly infectious strains.

Scientists are increasingly vigilant for any signs that the H5N1 bird flu virus, notorious for causing severe and often fatal infections in humans, might be adapting to spread more easily among people.

The virus has long been recognized for its pandemic potential due to its high lethality and ability to infect multiple species.

According to the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), the expanding reach of H5N1 across various species and geographic regions heightens the risk of human infection.

Though human cases of H5N1 are rare, they are highly concerning due to their severity.

The WHO reports that from 2003 to 2024, there have been 889 confirmed human infections with H5N1, resulting in 463 deaths, a staggering 52% mortality rate.

Recent findings show the virus’s ability to infect mammals is growing.

Evidence indicates that H5N1 can jump between wild birds and cattle, from cow to cow, and from cattle to poultry.

Alarmingly, there has also been one documented case of cow-to-human transmission.

However, there is no confirmed human-to-human transmission of the virus at this time.

Of particular concern is the detection of H5N1 particles in cattle, especially in the context of dairy farming.

Scientists suspect that the virus can spread between cattle during the milking process.

This could occur through contact with contaminated equipment or aerosolized virus particles during cleaning procedures.

The presence of the virus in milk samples has been confirmed by a nationwide survey conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which found H5N1 particles in one out of every five commercial milk samples tested.

Despite these findings, the FDA assures that there is no evidence suggesting the virus in milk poses a risk to human health, as pasteurization effectively neutralizes the virus.

The situation underscores the need for continued monitoring and preventive measures to control the spread of H5N1 and mitigate its risks to public health.

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