More Victorian farms shut down with bird flu

Fears of poultry shortages are growing in one state as the deadly bird flu disease hits another farm and shutters production.

Agriculture Victoria confirmed on Thursday that a sixth farm had been hit with avian influenza, with five properties near Meredith, about 100km west of Melbourne, and a property near Terang further west listed as exposure sites.

“Avian influenza virus has been confirmed at a sixth Victorian farm,” the department said.

“Tests have confirmed the high pathogenicity H7N3 strain at a commercial duck farm which is located within the current restricted area in the Golden Plains Shire.

“This detection is why our risk-based restricted and control areas are in place and shows that our comprehensive and ongoing surveillance activities are working.”

The Terang farm had the high pathogenicity H7N9 strain, the department confirmed.

Victoria has placed “movement controls” on the farms, which means permits are required for the movement of birds, poultry products, feed and equipment on or off the properties.

“All properties have been placed in quarantine and all poultry will be safely disposed of,” the department said.

“The sites will be cleaned and cleared of the infection.”

Nearly 500,000 chickens have been euthanised so far.

The department said consumers should not be concerned about eggs and duck meat products and they were safe to consume.

“Victoria has a secure supply chain, including the importation of eggs from interstate, so the current outbreak has not significantly affected supplies,” the department said.

But consumer fears of shortages have already hit supermarkets.

Coles has instituted buying limits on egg products in its eastern Australian stores.

“Due to a shortage of supply on eggs, we have introduced a temporary limit of two items per customer/transaction,” signs in supermarkets read.

“This will help maintain availability and support as many customers as possible.

“Thank you for your patience, we apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

Photos from a Woolworths supermarket at Taylors Lakes in Victoria show the shelves stripped bare of eggs, with a notice to customers reading: “We are currently experiencing high demand on some egg products. We’re working hard to get stock back on our shelves for you as quickly as possible.”

NewsWire understands the shortage was the result of a temporary surge in demand and Woolworths is not experiencing any widespread or substantial supply shortages.

Woolworths has not put in place buying limits and it is understood the company does not expect any substantial impact on its stores from the shuttered farms.

Bird flu can spread from infected birds to humans, though transmission is rare.

On May 22, health authorities detected the H5N1 strain in a Victorian child who had returned from overseas.

The child recovered in hospital and the case was not connected to the outbreak on poultry farms.

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