High pathogen H5N8 avian influenza, which causes high mortality among birds, has been confirmed at a pheasant farm in Janakkala in Tavastia Proper. The disease had been found earlier in wild birds near the farm and after last weekend, mortality among pheasants raised at the farm grew rapidly. It is the first time in Finland that the bird flu has spread from wild birds to a place where poultry is raised. The discovery of the disease affects regional transport of poultry and poultry products in a restricted zone.
Ten pheasants who had died on their own were delivered on Monday to the Finnish Food Authority, where the bird flu infection was confirmed. The farm itself has about 1,000 pheasants which the Finnish Food Authority has ordered to be put down.
Because of the high pathogen bird flu, the Finnish Food Authority is setting up a three-kilometre safety zone and a 10-kilometre monitoring zone. About 40 places keeping pet birds or poultry are in the latter zone. The Finnish Food Authority restricted transfers of poultry and poultry products regionally at the end of January because the disease was detected in wild birds and declared a restricted zone around the area where the disease was discovered.
Protection against disease needs to be upgraded nationwide
It is likely that bird flu exists in other parts of the country as well, although confirmed cases so far are limited to Southern Finland. The Finnish Food Authority is urging poultry farms to upgrade their protection against disease to prevent bird flu infections from spreading throughout the country. Poultry and all other domesticated birds should be kept inside or should be protected from contact with wild birds to keep the virus from spreading to areas where they are raised. Owing to the bird flu situation a ban on keeping poultry out of doors took effect on 8 February this year, three weeks earlier than usual.
Mass deaths of birds must be reported to a municipal veterinarian or provincial veterinarian without delay. Situations in which more than one swan, five or more other water birds, or more than ten birds of other species are found dead can be seen as mass deaths suggesting possible bird flu. Individual large predatory birds found dead should also be reported. If symptoms are noticed in poultry or other birds held in captivity, the matter should immediately be reported to a municipal veterinarian. In cases in which bird flu is suspected, an official veterinarian will examine the birds, take the required tests, and have them sent to the Finnish Food Authority. Individual wild birds that are found dead can also be sent to the Oulu branch of the Finnish Food Authority. The Finnish Food Authority especially hopes to get waterfowl and predatory birds as samples.
The bird flu virus is not easily transmitted to humans and being infected usually requires close contact with a wild bird, poultry, or their secretions. There are no known cases in Europe of the transmission of H5N8 type avian influenza to humans. Good production hygiene combined with the fact that poultry meat is heated before it is used as food ensure that it is not possible to be infected by bird flu from foods that are sold in Finland and processed according to instructions. There is no need to alter food habits because of bird flu.
Head of Unit Sirpa Kiviruusu, tel. +358 29 520 4436 (Animal Health and Medication)
Head of Unit Tuija Gadd, tel. +358 29 520 4183 (Avian Virus Diseases and Diagnostics)
Director Marjatta Rahkio, tel. +358 29 520 4893 (Food Safety Department)
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