Surveillance for avian influenza virus subtypes H5 and H7 in chickens and turkeys farmed commercially in New Zealand

Surveillance for avian influenza virus subtypes H5 and H7 in chickens and turkeys farmed commercially in New Zealand
Peer reviewed

Abstract

AIM: To determine the status of avian influenza (AI) virus sub-types H5 and H7 of New Zealand’s commercial chicken and turkey farms.
METHODS: A cross-sectional serological survey, stratified by production sector, used a sample frame defined by those farms registered with the Poultry Industry Association of New Zealand (PIANZ) or the Egg Producers Federation of New Zealand (EPF). Sectors included were chicken broiler, caged/barn layer, free-range layer, pullet rearer and turkey broiler. The survey used a between- and within-farm design prevalence of 5% (95% confidence for chickens, 99% confidence for turkeys) and 30% (95% confidence), respectively, of AI virus subtypes H5 and H7. The epidemiological unit was the farm for the free-range layer sector, and the individual shed/barn for the other sectors. Serum samples were screened using a commercial generic influenza A indirect ELISA; positive samples were subjected to haemagglutination-inhibition (HI) testing for AI virus subtypes H5 and H7. A comprehensive investigation, that included widespread serological and antigenic screening, was carried out on all farms identified with serum reactors to either the H5 or H7 virus subtype.
RESULTS: A total of 4,180 blood samples from 167 chicken and 10 turkey farms were collected and tested using ELISA. Positive ELISA results were returned from 26 farms, comprising 10 caged/barn layer, 14 free-range layer and two turkey (shed-raised) broiler farms. HI testing of ELISA-positive sera for the H7 subtype virus identified no positive sera in any sector. Reactors to the H5 subtype virus were limited to three free-range layer chicken farms; each farm returned a single serum reactor. Follow-up investigations on these free-range farms identified evidence of historic exposure to the H5 subtype virus on one farm, and concluded that the serum reactors identified in the initial sampling round on the other two farms were non-specific (false-positive) reactions.
CONCLUSIONS: The survey found no evidence of active infection with notifiable AI viruses, and provided evidence of absence of exposure to AI virus subtypes H5 and H7 in the chicken broiler, caged/barn layer, turkey broiler and pullet-rearer sectors at a between- and within-farm prevalence of 5% and 30%, respectively, with 95% confidence. The results established commercial free-range layer farms as a risk sector for exposure to notifiable AI virus.
KEY WORDS: Avian influenza, surveillance, haemaglutination inhibition, ELISA, poultry, polymerase chain reaction, PCR


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