What you need to know about the NSW bird flu outbreak (2024)

Egg stock in supermarkets are down, and hundreds of thousands of chickens are set to be euthanased as bird flu wreaks havoc across Australia.

Virus strain HPAI H7N8 was detected on a large poultry egg farm in the Hawkesbury district of NSW on Wednesday.

NSW Minister for Agriculture Tara Moriarty told ABC News 8,000 birds died from the flu as it swept through the farm with 240,000 birds at the farm to be euthanased.

Premier Chris Minns said there was no reason to panic as the confirmed case was "quarantined to one particular site" and government officials were "managing the situation".

What you need to know about the NSW bird flu outbreak (1)

It follows — but is not connected to — an outbreak of two strains in Victoria, and a third causing concern around the world.

A low-pathogenic case of bird flu was also detected in Western Australia last month.

Professor of microbiology at Swinburne University and food health and safety expert Enzo Palombo said that while there's "never been any evidence" of the virus transmitting to food supply, there are still measures that can be taken to minimise risk.

Here are the implications of bird flu, and how it will likely affect consumers.

What is the H7N8 strain of bird flu?

Avian influenza, more commonly known as bird flu, is an infectious virus similar to seasonal influenza (flu) in humans.

NSW Health says it spreads predominantly through wild water birds, and there are several types that vary in how deadly it is for the animals.

The virus can occasionally, but rarely, spread to humans through contact with infected birds.

There has been a lock down of machinery, materials, animals and transport within a radius of 2 kilometres of the affected egg farm, covering three large commercial poultry farms and up to 355,000 birds will be monitored for any signs of the virus.

What you need to know about the NSW bird flu outbreak (2)

Most strains have not shown evidence of efficient person-to-person transmission or community spread to date, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

HPAI stands for high pathogenicity avian influenza — meaning it is more likely to kill chickens, and has been implicated in eight successfully eradicated poultry outbreaks in Australia.

What you need to know about the NSW bird flu outbreak (3)

In NSW, it has been eradicated three times, most recently in regional town Young in the Hilltops Region in 2013.

H7N8 is different from fellow HPAI and global strain of concern H5N1, detected in a Melbourne toddler recently, as well as H7N3 and H7N9 which have caused outbreaks in Victoria.

The strain that led to the quarantine of the Greater Sydney Basin farm is understood to be a "separate spill-over event" potentially from wild birds.

"In terms of the types of virus that are causing the outbreaks in Australia, they are rarely, if ever, implicated in human disease," Professor Palombo said.

"If you haven't already, get your annual flu vaccination, because the less human flu there is in the community, the less likely these events where human and bird viruses merge to be something different, can occur."

Does it relate to the current egg shortage?

Professor Palombo said more broadly, empty shelves in supermarkets can happen when supply farms are impacted, or to prepare consumers for wider anticipated egg shortages.

"[This can] help the public get used to perhaps having to find alternative supplies," he said.

The Victorian outbreak has already affected poultry supply, and led to warnings of potential shortages that could affect egg supplies nationwide.

According to the egg industry, there are more than 21 million hens in the national egg flock and more than 1 million in Victoria that will be culled to stop the bird flu spread.

What you need to know about the NSW bird flu outbreak (4)

In the Hawkesbury farm instance, Australian Eggs managing director Rowan McMonnies said birds on the farm would be euthanised.

He said it would cause a "significant blow" to the farm involved and the industry at large.

Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland produce more than 350 million dozen eggs each year combined.

Ms Moriarty said NSW consumers should not be concerned about eggs and poultry products from the supermarkets "because this detection does not pose a risk to consumer health and the products are safe to consume".

President of the NSW branch of the Farmers Federation Xavier Martin said earlier this month that less than 2 per cent of Australia's hens had been impacted.

What you need to know about the NSW bird flu outbreak (5)

He said that buying restrictions had more to do with supermarket procurement policy than farmers.

"There's no need for any concerns, avian influenza is not new — it's been in New South Wales about a decade ago."

Peak body Australian Eggs assured consumers that there were "still hundreds of egg farms around the country" to support demand as impacted farms recover.

"These avian influenza incidents will cause some disruption to egg supply as retailers reorganise their supply," Mr McMonnies said.

"But purchase limits or patchy supermarket shelves do not indicate a nation-wide shortage."

Should we be concerned about diets, coops?

Professor Palombo assured the risk of transmission through eggs and poultry meat is "so remote that it's probably not even a concern".

Regular precautions in food hygiene, handling, cooking and storing help make the risk negligible, he said.

"If the virus ever gets into the food supply, cooking the food thoroughly, as we should always do with any poultry products, will kill the virus and therefore eliminate the risk.

"Remember, the flu is a respiratory virus, it doesn't spread through food, which is one reassuring piece of good news."

People most at risk are those in close contact with live infected birds, like at farms or abattoirs, Professor Palombo said.

"In terms of the general public, there's been no evidence of this virus being able to spread to humans unless they are in very deep contact or close contact with infected [birds]."

The professor said people with backyard chickens could also be more vigilant watching the health of themselves and their birds.

"If they see any signs of distress, symptoms like diarrhoea or respiratory symptoms, contact your authorities and report those," he urged.

Posted, updated

What you need to know about the NSW bird flu outbreak (2024)


What you need to know about bird flu? ›

Takeaways. Bird flu (avian influenza) is a flu virus that typically affects birds, but in rare cases can spread to other animals and humans. In 2024, the virus appeared in cows, and as of May 2024, three people who were in close contact with infected cows have had the virus.

How serious is the bird flu outbreak? ›

H5N1 bird flu is widespread in wild birds worldwide and is causing outbreaks in poultry and U.S. dairy cows with three recent human cases in U.S. dairy workers. While the current public health risk is low, CDC is watching the situation carefully and working with states to monitor people with animal exposures.

How to protect yourself from bird flu? ›

People should avoid direct contact with wild birds and other animals infected with or suspected to be infected with avian influenza A viruses. If you must have direct/close contact with infected or potentially infected birds or other animals, wear recommended personal protective equipment (PPE).

What was the cause of the bird flu? ›

Avian influenza, also known as 'bird flu', is a disease primarily affecting birds and is caused by a virus of the Orthomyxoviridae family. According to its subtype, it may be classified as high or low pathogenicity, presenting different symptoms in infected birds.

Should I worry about bird flu? ›

Though there's much we don't know, this much seems certain: bird flu will continue to change and pose challenges for farmers and health experts to stay ahead of it. So far, public health experts believe that bird flu poses little health risk to the general public.

How to cure bird flu in humans? ›

Treatment with the antiviral medicine oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza) may make the disease less severe. For the medicine to work, you need to start taking it within 48 hours after your symptoms start. Oseltamivir may also be prescribed for people who live in the same house as people with avian flu.

How is the bird flu transmitted to humans? ›

Contact with sick poultry or their environment is the most common bird flu risk for people. Infected birds can spread the virus through their breath, saliva, mucus or stool. Rarely, people have caught bird flu after contact with wild birds or other animals. And sometimes humans have passed a bird flu to other humans.

How long does bird flu virus live? ›

The length of time that avian influenza viruses can survive on surfaces varies by the surface type and environmental factors such as temperature and humidity. They can survive longer under cold and wet conditions (weeks to months) than under warm, dry conditions (hours to days).

What is the death rate of the bird flu in humans? ›

From 1 January 2003 to 3 May 2024, a total of 254 cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H5N1) virus have been reported from four countries within the Western Pacific Region (Table 1). Of these cases, 141 were fatal, resulting in a case fatality rate (CFR) of 56%.

Do masks protect against bird flu? ›

The agency is asking states to make personal protection equipment available as more information comes to light about the transmission of the virus.

What cleaner kills bird flu? ›


✦ Bleach (such as Clorox) at a rate of 1:32, which is 1/2 cup (4 oz.) to one gallon of water. Dish or laundry soap can be added to the mixture. Do NOT add ammonia to bleach/water mixture.

Are eggs safe to eat with bird flu? ›

Can You Get Bird Flu from Eating Eggs? According to the Food and Drug Administration, it is safe to eat eggs, even during this outbreak. 2 The probability of eggs being affected by bird flu is low, especially if purchasing them in the retail market.

Can you eat chicken with bird flu? ›

You're not likely to contract bird flu from eating beef or chicken, according to Dan Gallagher, a Registered Dietitian with Aegle Nutrition. “The chances of getting sick from eating chicken or beef, even with the bird flu outbreak, are still incredibly low,” he noted.

What animal did bird flu come from? ›

The viruses that cause avian influenza (or “bird flu”) mainly infect and spread among wild aquatic birds, such as wild ducks, geese, and storks, and domestic poultry, such as chickens and turkeys.

How long does it take to get sick from bird flu? ›

Bird flu symptoms can be mild to serious in a person. Symptoms typically show up within seven days of contact with the virus but can take as long as two weeks. A person can get infected from direct contact with an infected animal, or the bedding or stool of the animal.

Will bird flu spread to humans? ›

It is rare for bird flu to spread to humans. Currently, the bird flu virus spreading in the United States and globally is highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A(H5N1)—referred to below as "H5N1 bird flu." The current risk to public health is low. H5N1 bird flu is mainly affecting animal health.

How to prepare for bird flu pandemic? ›

Prevention Measures

People should not prepare or eat uncooked or undercooked food or related uncooked food products, such as unpasteurized (raw) milk, or products made from raw milk such as cheeses, from animals with confirmed or suspected HPAI A(H5N1)-virus infection (avian influenza or bird flu).


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