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10 October 2006
Biosecurity New Zealand has completed its first survey of commercial broiler
and layer farms throughout the country and found no highly pathogenic avian
The study was the first phase of an ongoing surveillance programme.
MAF will continue to conduct further surveillance to meet its originally stated
objectives of confirming the absence of highly pathogenic influenza virus in
New Zealand and meeting New Zealand's international reporting
New Zealand is part of a global network contributing to knowledge about
avian influenza and early warning and detection of highly pathogenic avian
influenza. In May this year, Biosecurity New Zealand announced it was
increasing surveillance to demonstrate New Zealand's freedom from highly
pathogenic avian influenza.
"This survey supports what more than 30 years of surveillance has told
us - that New Zealand does not have highly pathogenic avian influenza,"
said Surveillance Principal Adviser, Ron Thornton.
There are many strains of avian influenza viruses, which are naturally
present in many species of healthy wild birds, especially water fowl.
Strains of avian influenza are categorised as highly pathogenic or of low
pathogenicity on the basis of the severity of clinical signs in chickens.
Low pathogencity avian influenza viruses may cause mild or no clinical
disease in birds, but are harmless to humans. The highly pathogenic
avian influenza virus of worldwide concern at present is an Asian strain of the
H5N1 type. No H5N1 virus has ever been found in New Zealand.
"The situation in New Zealand remains unchanged – the risk of
highly pathogenic avian influenza entering New Zealand in birds is low, and we
will be continuing to confirm this fact by conducting surveillance in migratory
birds as they arrive in New Zealand."
Phase one of the comprehensive surveillance programme looked at commercial
broiler and layer flocks. A statistically-valid survey was designed in
accordance with international guidelines using sensitive serological screening
tests. Testing was carried out at Biosecurity New Zealand's
Investigation and Diagnostic Centre at Wallaceville.
Planning is underway for phase two of the ongoing surveillance programme,
which will continue to survey some sectors of the commercial industry and
migratory wild bird populations.
Surveillance Principal Adviser, Ron Thornton says that as we increase
surveillance, we may find further evidence of low pathogenic viruses but these
in themselves are of little concern.
"In the unlikely event that highly pathogenic avian influenza virus
was found in New Zealand, Biosecurity New Zealand would move immediately to
eradicate the virus. New Zealand is well prepared to respond to an
outbreak of avian influenza," Dr Thornton said. "There are
comprehensive response plans and policies in place for avian
Senior Communications Adviser
Biosecurity New Zealand
04 894 0161
029 894 0161