UPDATE 2-Australia quarantines farm to contain H7 bird flu outbreak

Reuters Middle East

* Australia's first highly pathogenic case for birds since

1997

* Egg farm cordoned off; chickens to be culled

(Updates with detail from Australian authorities, adds Sydney

dateline)

SYDNEY/PARIS Nov 16 (Reuters) - 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 ABC

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 added.

Australia's agriculture ministry reported the outbreak to

the Paris-based animal health body OIE on Thursday.

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.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide and Gus Trompiz in PARIS

and Jane Wardell in SYDNEY; Editing by Brian Love and John Mair)

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