First outbreak in 15 years of H7 strain bird flu hits Australian poultry farm

Australia recently reported its first case in 15 years of a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza.

The World Organization for Animal Health, the OIE, said that the H7 strain, detected last week, has infected 5,000 birds at an egg farm located in the New South Wales region, and an additional 50,000 are thought to be at risk, according to Reuters.

The virus is different from the feared H5N1 strain that was first detected in Hong Kong in 1997. That strain has since devastated the poultry industry in Asia and caused hundreds of deaths in humans, though it is not considered readily transmissible. There was an Australian outbreak of avian influenza in February, but the strain involved was not considered highly pathogenic.

The exact type of H7 strain has yet to be determined, according to a report written by the Australian agriculture ministry to the Paris-based OIE. Regardless, Japan responded to the infections by placing a ban on Australian poultry imports, including eggs, according to

The World Health Organization said that one type of H7 influenza virus, the H7N7 subtype, can readily infect humans and is capable of causing fatalities, but noted that its impact tends to be mild. The farm, however, has been placed under quarantine as inspectors try to identify the outbreak's origins.

Australian Department of Primary Industries Chief Veterinary Officer Ian Roth said the outbreak does not pose a risk to food safety in poultry and eggs.

"It generally spreads by the movement of birds from the farm and there certainly hasn't been any of those," Roth said, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports. "We're in the process now of doing the tracing and also surveillance in the area, and so far the tracing looks quite good. There hasn't been much potential for spread."