Shelter poultry during spring months

28.2.2012

<p>As in previous years, poultry must be protected from any contact with wild birds during the spring migration period in order to prevent the avian influenza virus from spreading. Pursuant to a Decree by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, poultry has to be kept either indoors or in an outdoor area protected fully e.g. with a sufficiently close meshed net between 1 March and 31 May. The protective regulations do not concern free-flying pigeons, zoos and permanent animal exhibitions. The local municipal veterinarian must be informed if poultry is kept outdoors.</p>

Highly pathogenic influenza virus strains that cause a disease with severe symptoms may still be present in birds. In 2011, avian influenza cases in poultry have been reported for instance in Asia and South Africa. Low pathogenic virus strains such as H5 or H7 type viruses have been found in many European countries, not only in wild birds but in poultry, too. A low pathogenic virus can sometimes mutate into a pathogenic one. A case in which the pathogenicity of a type H7 avian influenza virus varied periodically between low and high was analysed in the Netherlands in 2011. All birds on the farm were put down.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza has never been found in Finland. However, several cases of low pathogenic avian influenza viruses in wild birds have been found annually in surveys. A low pathogenic virus was also isolated once in a duck kept on a farm.

The protective measures for poultry aim at protecting the poultry from avian influenza, but the same protective measures also protect the birds from other contagious diseases such as Newcastle disease, caused by the PMV-1 virus. Every now and then, this virus has been found in wild birds in Finland. The latest occurrence of PMV-1 in Finland was in February 2012 in feral rock pigeons. Therefore, protection of poultry and pet birds from diseases must be ensured at other times of the year, too.

Poultry owners and hobby chicken farmers must report any cases of illness symptoms indicative of avian influenza, exceptional mortality, or changes in production to the municipal or provincial veterinary officer. Lower consumption of water or feed, or declining production of eggs may by signs of an avian influenza infection on the farm. Once notified, the official veterinarian assesses the situation and if there is no other apparent reason for the changes on the farm, sends samples taken from the birds for analysis at Evira.

For further information, please contact:
Katri Levonen, Senior Veterinary Officer, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry,
tel. +358 9 1605 3437, katri.levonen at-merkki.gif : 1Kb mmm.fi
Tiia Tuupanen, Senior Inspector, Evira, Animal Health and Welfare Unit,
tel. +358 40 489 3348, tiia.tuupanen at-merkki.gif : 1Kb evira.fi
Christine Ek-Kommonen, Senior Researcher, Evira, Veterinary Virology Research Unit,
tel. +358 50 5143926, christine.ek-kommonen at-merkki.gif : 1Kb evira.fi

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