The bird flu virus continues to spread despite the fact that all domestic birds have been kept in cages since the end of October. How this could happen is a major concern for the poultry sector.
Avian influenza has broken out 13 times in poultry farms in the Netherlands, after the mandatory internal confinement system was implemented on October 26 last year. Tens of thousands of animals were also culled in Ysselsteyn a few weeks ago after the outbreak.
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The outbreaks are inexplicable for Theo Cumans, Ospel poultry farmer and spokesperson for De Limburgse Land- en Tuinbouwbond. Although research is done after each outbreak. The Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality and the Dutch Consumer and Food Safety Authority can’t put their finger on it either, they say we.
Coumans: “We see that the virus is still entering the stables even though the farmers have taken all the measures. This worries the sector. Very strict hygiene rules are already in place. Visitors are not welcome either. The virus is literally blown into the stables. Perhaps by bird feathers or a substance Nest, we can’t put our finger on it,” says Cumans.
Impact on the sector
He fears extending the mandatory confinement to 16 weeks, which will last until mid-February. The negative consequences for this sector are twofold. First, the animals suffer because they get little light and fresh air in a diverse environment. (Even) staying in confinement for a longer period can be stressful.
Secondly, eggs are produced much less. Free range eggs are reduced to free range eggs after 16 weeks in the pen. “The financial impact is huge,” Commans says. “We’re really concerned about that.”
But what if strict measures don’t work and outbreaks persist? “I think vaccination is the answer. We as a sector have been advocating this for years. A vaccine should be developed and it should not cause trade restrictions. Now countries, including the Netherlands, absolutely do not want poultry products vaccinated against bird flu. To change this requires a will political”.
Some vaccines are available abroad against avian influenza viruses, but none have been developed against the current virus that is now causing an outbreak in the Netherlands. “If a vaccine is used that only partially protects poultry from bird flu infection, it can mask the infection. The virus can then spread unnoticed, making it more difficult to fight the virus,” he writes. Wageningen University.
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