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Avian Influenza


  1.   Q - What causes Avian influenza and how can I prevent it?

A – It is caused by a virus of birds which spreads very quickly from bird to bird but causing high illness and death rates mainly in domesticated birds.


  1.   Q – Briefly explain what avian influenza is

A – It is a very serious illness of birds which can lead to major losses in birds for those rearing poultry. Some of the Avian Influenza virus types can cause illness in humans.


3.   Q – What precautions should a farmer take to ensure the poultry in his/her farm is not   affected if neighbours are?

A – Good management practices especially ensuring extreme hygiene, separation of poultry from wild birds and their droppings, and using separate equipment and personnel between houses will go a long way to help.


  1.  Q – Is it safe to kill and eat the birds that show signs and symptoms?

A – It is not recommended to slaughter and eat sick birds as some variations of the disease may be transmitted from birds to humans.


  1.  Q – Can I slaughter and eat the meat of Avian Influenza affected chickens?

A – It is always not recommended to slaughter and eat sick birds. A good number of poultry diseases may be transmitted from birds to humans, including some types of influenza.


  1.  Q – How do I know whether or not my chickens have been affected by Avian flu?

A – The disease is usually characterised by the death of a large number of birds within a short space of time. The disease can only be confirmed by tests conducted by Laboratories approved by the Veterinary authorities. Hence one should inform one’s nearest Veterinary office inviting them to visit and investigate.


  1.   Q –Does the use of Virukill to spray chicken houses help now?

A – Yes it is helpful to spray houses using Virukill as it is a disinfectant effective in killing viruses. However, disinfectants cannot cure sick birds.


  1.   Q – What form of biosecurity can we start taking now to prevent it?

A – It is important to ensure that bird houses are bird-proof to prevent contact between wild birds and domestic poultry. It is also not advisable not to have trees and bushes in the area within and immediate surrounding of the poultry houses. There is also need to restrict personnel accessing individual bird houses. Strict hygiene needs to be maintained always. Rodent control should also be implemented at all times.

Implementing good biosecurity at one’s poultry establishment is central to preventing the spread of avian influenza. This includes restricting access of personnel to poultry sheds, preventing contact between domestic poultry and wild birds, implementing rodent control around poultry sheds and installing footbaths on the entrances of poultry houses.


  1.  Q – Does this disease affect road runners?

A – All types of poultry including road runners are susceptible to the disease. If they do not fall sick, they may carry and spread the virus.


10.   Q – I would like to know how far this avian influenza has gone in our country; and which areas?

A – The disease has to date only affected one poultry establishment in the Marirangwe area. The Government Veterinary Services is currently intensifying surveillance to in surrounding areas to determine if there are any other areas in the country affected by the disease. As the virus originates from migratory birds which pass it to wild water birds, it can occur anywhere in the country.


  1.   Q – Is there protection we can give our poultry?

A – It is recommended to implement strict biosecurity at poultry premises, which includes restricting visitors to bird houses and ensuring bird sheds are bird proof to prevent access of wild birds into poultry houses. This is intended to keep the virus out or to restrict it where it has occurred.


  1.   Q – How do I know my chickens have flu?

A – The onset of high mortalities is suggestive of the disease but it is recommended to report any incidents promptly to Veterinary authorities to investigate and confirm the disease as the symptoms can be confused with those of other diseases.


  1.   Q – Are there any vaccines against avian influenza?

A – Vaccines against avian influenza for use in poultry not approved for use in Zimbabwe and therefore not allowed for use.



14.   Q – Besides the mentioned wild birds, is there any other source of the flu so that we prevent?

 A – Besides wild birds, the virus can also be contracted from infected birds including domesticated poultry harbouring the virus, contaminated clothing, feed, footwear, bird dropping, feathers and equipment and vehicles.



  1.   Q – Besides good biosecurity what other measures can one put in place?

A – Good biosecurity is always the principal method one can use to prevent the disease as it is relatively cheap and effective against more than one disease agent. Commercial vaccines have been developed in other countries to prevent the disease but there are control concerns, hence are not recommended for use in Zimbabwe.


  1.   Q – How can I deal with a flock where I notice one or two birds with symptoms?

            A -  It is recommended to immediately contact your nearest veterinarian to assist in determining and managing the problem.


  1.   Q – How does avian influenza spread?

A – Avian influenza can spread through direct contact between susceptible and infected birds, or contact with their secretions and excretions such as respiratory discharges or faeces. The disease can also spread through contaminated feed, equipment, poultry manure, clothing and foot wear. Vehicles can also spread the virus from farm to farm.


  1.   Q – What action should a farmer take on discovering that their birds are sick?

A – The farmer should report to the nearest veterinary office once he / she discovers that their birds are exhibiting signs of illness.


19.  Q –How long must I take before I put new birds in a chicken run which had infected birds?

A – A chicken run which previously had infected birds must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected using approved disinfectants, then the houses should be rested for up to a month before placing new birds, watching the situation carefully for possible recurrence.


20. Q – Isn’t avian influenza a man-made virus to sabotage industry and farmers because how do you discover it then all of a sudden it has a cure?

A – The avian influenza virus is not man- made. It is a naturally occurring virus, with wild aquatic birds being their natural reservoir. The virus passes on to chickens through contact between wild birds and domestic poultry. Avian influenza has no specific treatment.


  1.   Q – What are the signs and symptoms of a chicken suffering from avian influenza?

A – The signs of avian influenza are not specific to this disease alone as they can also be exhibited by birds suffering from other diseases such as Newcastle disease. They include nervous signs such as leg and wing paralysis; diarrhoea and signs of respiratory distress. 



  1.   Q – What does this mean to the chicken consuming public?

A – The Avian Influenza type recently reported in Zimbabwe is affecting chickens only. It does not appear to be transmitted from chickens to humans, although there are other virus types in other countries that can cause illness in humans through consumption of infected chickens.


23.  Q – Where did this virus originate from and what are the possible channels it might have come through into this country?

 A – Avian Influenza originated in China in 2003 and subsequently spread to other parts of the world. The major possible route that the virus could have entered the country is through migratory wild birds. The virus could also have entered the country on human clothing, contaminated equipment, pests and footwear.

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