Varanus Park virus: Egypt outbreak affects UK travel

Image copyright BBC Image caption The Varanus Park outbreak left many birds infected with the same virus

Some countries around the world have imposed travel restrictions to and from Egypt in response to an outbreak of the Varanus Park disease in the country.

So far, at least 153,000 birds have been culled and 113,000 culled in Britain.

The Varanus Park strain of the avian influenza, known as Omicron variant, can be fatal to chickens.

The infection can spread from wild birds to domestic chickens and poultry in wild.

Depending on the species, this can result in egg production, brood death or even death, after about two weeks of illness.

Travel warning

The Varanus Park virus is now known to affect more than a dozen species including European coots, turkeys, ducks, quail, and other bird species.

In countries including France, Italy, Bulgaria, Morocco, Romania, China, Ghana, and the United Arab Emirates, restrictions on travel have been imposed, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

After a significant increase in the number of cases in Egypt, the UK Government issued a travel advisory on 16 May, urging holidaymakers to avoid domestic birds in those countries “until it is known whether the birds have become infected by the Varanus Park virus.”

As part of efforts to combat the spread of the virus, fumigation has taken place in a number of counties, including France, Italy, Bulgaria, Morocco, Egypt, Ethiopia, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Israel, Jordan, South Africa, Tunisia, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, the UAE, Qatar, and the Republic of Seychelles.

This leads to the destruction of chickens and egg production in the affected countries.

In Mexico, which reported a high number of cases, the OIE has said the avian influenza may be passed from animals to people as the virus may provoke reactions in humans.

Different strains

The Varanus Park disease may be spread via birds and, in some cases, through the food chain, but other diseases may also cause more damage.

The Liverpool Animal Health and Welfare Trust’s health minister, Melanie Holdsworth, told the BBC that since the end of the outbreak in June around 200,000 eggs from the same flock may have been wiped out.

Kellogg’s has promised a £5m fund to support producers affected by the virus.

According to the European Food Safety Authority, avian influenza is contracted by roosters, which act like “jumping-jacks” that infect the wings of other birds in a flock.

Another example is that of Australian transport authorities keeping a truck carrying livestock parked for 24 hours to prevent it passing a bird flu infection onto moving trucks.

Transport experts say this looks like a step in the right direction, but it is wrong to presume such vehicles can contain or contain a virus such as bird flu unless they are in a self-contained transport area.

Distributing harmful viruses in countries via birds and then transporting them, often in unannounced tours, means this has proved to be an effective way to spread a potentially fatal infection.

The OMEA says that within poultry flocks, disease transmission is mainly carried out by air passing birds through small passages.

SOURCE: European Food Safety Authority

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