Episode 310. Avian Flu and Food Security

This is The ChangeUnderground for the 19th of September 2022.

I’m your host, Jon Moore

Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!

Varroa update:


Sunday 18th of September

There was 1 new detection of Varroa mite today, within the existing red eradication zone in the Newcastle area – that brings total infected premises across NSW to 100.

A beekeeper called in the result after completing surveillance at home – thank you for letting us know.

It’s not required by beekeepers in the red zone to conduct surveillance at this time, due to the widespread euthanasia of hives currently occurring.

If you do conduct surveillance and find Varroa mite, it is a requirement under the emergency order to report it to NSW DPI.

Euthanasia operations continue in the Nana Glen and Hunter red eradication zones.

End Quote

Starting to see light at the end of a very long nasty tunnel.

More biosecurity worries.

From the RTE site date 13 September 2022 by Joe Mag Raollaigh entitled: Reports of dead and dying seabirds on east and south coasts


Birdwatch Ireland says it has received hundreds of reports of dead and dying seabirds along the east and south coasts in recent days.

Clusters of dead birds have been found in some locations.

Fifteen were found on Morriscastle beach in Co Wexford yesterday, with eight found on Brittas Bay beach in Co Wicklow.

Niall Hatch of Birdwatch Ireland says it seems likely the birds have died from avian flu, which has recently been detected in other dead seabirds by the Department of Agriculture.

The species most affected are gannets but razor bills, guillemots and gulls have also been found dead.

In recent months bird flu has devastated some seabird colonies in the UK, and has also been detected in many European countries.

End Quote

This causes a conundrum. The best defence against avian flu for agricultural fowls is to house them. The best animal welfare protocols would call for free range birds. Somewhere in the middle lies our path to continued food production and animal welfare. The danger is a wild population carrying the infection and defecating upon the free range fowls. With a highly transmissible strain, a few super spreading events could shut the sector down, including backyard flocks.

The other problem with avian flu is its ability, from time to time, to jump from birds to humans and then to develop human to human infection abilities. This is what happened in 1918 with the incorrectly named Spanish Flu.

We know what to do in a pandemic, getting enough of the population to do it can be a problem, even before political interference in the science. The 1918 outbreak was from a mutation of the H1N1 strain. The current outbreak of avian flu in, mostly seabirds, is the H5N1 strain. This strain was first identified in humans in 2005 in China and Hong Kong. The usual route, people in close proximity to livestock allowing inter species transmission of zoonotic transmission as it’s also called, seems to be the original source. There doesn’t appear to be much person to person transmission if any. 

The problem though is not just the zoonotic impacts but the food supply issues. Average worldwide chicken meat consumption has risen from about 9 kilos per annum to 14.5 kilos per annum since 2000. If the virus gets into the food supply systems, in the factory farming sector in particular, there’s going to be a larger number of hungry people than there are now. I remember a Newcastle disease outbreak on the Central Coast of NSW back in the 1990s. I was travelling through the area before I realised where I was. We stopped at a police/biosecurity checkpoint. Quizzed as to any live or dead poultry on board, no we didn’t, and any cooked poultry meat was the next question. Again, no but it would have been confiscated. If we’d had live or deceased birds on board, a court case, fine and possible jail term awaited. This was a small outbreak but in an area known for supplying much of greater Sydney’s chooks and eggs. The price of both spiked a bit and dropped back to normal fairly quickly. If a major avian flu outbreak occurred disruptions would be far more consequential.

As I said, the middle path might be keeping our birds indoors for a month or so and using footbaths and other biosecurity tools until the outbreak had been controlled. Now keeping poultry indoors brings its own issues. Our chooks are easy enough, a deep litter setup is easily developed. The ducks though would be a different matter. Maybe a cull might be required. I would hope not but they’re very poorly suited in shedding. This is especially so as numbers increase. A trio or two could, just, be housed but they would not be happy birds. I’m not sure they’d be all that pleased to be culled either. Biosecurity in a health crisis is never a pleasant set of circumstances. Then of course we have the piggies. They too can contract avian, human and of course porcine flus. This is a situation I’m not really looking forward to but may well have to face at some stage. So far the world has been lucky, to a point. Outbreaks are usually confined and flocks euthanized before they become epidemics or pandemics but as we know it only takes minor breaches in biosecurity and a little human error for things to get out of hand, quickly.

The final sentence from the article quoted above sums the situation succinctly:


Poultry owners and keepers of captive birds are being urged to maintain the highest biosecurity standards to protect their flocks.

End Quote

Stay vigilant listeners, long dormant pathogens and more frequent ones too are raising their ugly heads. 

Despite all these challenges we can, we must:

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

Thank you all for listening and I’ll be back next week.



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email: jon@worldorganicnews.com


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Varroa mite emergency response



Reports of dead and dying seabirds on east and south coasts



European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control: Factsheet on A(H5N1)


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