* Australia's first highly pathogenic case for birds since
* Egg farm cordoned off; chickens to be culled
* Japan bans imports from Australia
(Adds Japan bans imports from Australia, production and export
details, paragraphs 9-19, changes dateline)
SYDNEY, Nov 16 Australia's first outbreak of a
highly pathogenic bird flu virus in 15 years should be contained
by a cull of 50,000 chickens, authorities said on Friday,
although they do not know what caused the case at an egg farm in
New South Wales state.
The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) said all chickens
at the property in Maitland, 160 km (100 miles) north of Sydney,
will be destroyed after the H7 virus was detected last week.
The H7 strain is highly pathogenic to birds but is not
related to the H5N1 strain, which was first detected in 1997 in
Hong Kong and has since caused hundreds of human deaths.
DPI Chief Veterinary Officer Ian Roth said the strain did
not present any risks to food safety from poultry and eggs.
The owners of the infected farm have been quarantined as
experts try to find the source of the virus, often wild birds.
"It generally spreads by the movement of birds from the farm
and there certainly hasn't been any of those," Roth told
Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio.
"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," he said.
Australia's agriculture ministry reported the outbreak to
the Paris-based animal health body OIE on Thursday.
Australia's Chicken Meat Federation said the industry
produced around 1.12 million tonnes a year, worth around A$1.9
billion, with most used domestically and only around 5 percent
JAPAN BANS IMPORTS
Japan banned the import of poultry and eggs from Australia
after the outbreak, the country's Ministry of Agriculture said
in a statement late on Thursday.
Japan imported 0.9 tonnes of meat in 2011 and 1.9 tonnes in
the two years before. Imports of eggs totaled 2.1 tonnes in the
three years through last year. Japan is asking Australian
authorities to provide more details about the outbreak, the
Chicken Meat Federation executive director Andreas Dubs said
most exports were for pet food, while chicken feet were exported
to some countries where they are eaten by humans.
The Australian government's official commodities forecaster
expects about 41,000 tonnes of chicken to be exported in the
financial year to June 30, 2013.
Major export destinations are Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea,
the Philippines, Vietnam and South Africa. Producers typically
earn about A$1 ($1.03) per kilogram for chicken products.
Many countries, including Japan, have automatic measures to
stop imports when there is an outbreak of avian influenza (AI)
and they will be in discussions with Australian authorities to
check if the outbreak is contained and exports can be restored.
"It is a fairly normal thing for countries, when you have an
outbreak of AI, a number of countries have requirements that you
are free of AI," Dubs said. "It is a short-term reaction. It is
not really a longer-term concern for us."
South Korea, which imported 5.2 tonnes of Australian poultry
last year, is conducting a review, an official said.
"The ministry is discussing whether to ban Australian
poultry imports, though the volume is minimal. After reviewing
the issue, we'll take appropriate safety and sanitary measures,"
said Chang Jae-hong, an official from the quarantine policy
division at the South Korean agriculture ministry.
Hong Kong hasn't issued a ban on imports. China's quarantine
bureau also has not issued a ban, but analysts said China is not
a major poultry importer from Australia.
Australia faced an outbreak of a bird flu in February that
led to a ban on Australian exports of poultry products to Japan,
but that was not a highly pathogenic virus.
Most avian influenza viruses do not cause disease in humans.
At least one type of H7 strain, the H7N7 subtype, can infect
people and even kill, but the impact on humans usually tends to
be mild, the World Health Organization said.
($1 = 0.9683 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide and Gus Trompiz in PARIS,
Jane Wardell in SYDNEY, James Grubel in CANBERRA, Risa Maeda in
TOKYO, Anne-Marie Roantree in HONG KONG, Jane Chung in SEOUL and
Niu Shuping in BEIJING; Editing by Brian Love, John Mair, Aaron
Sheldrick and Paul Tait)