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aust at risk, page-3

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    JOHN ROBERTS: It's believed that it arrives here in migrating water birds, there are a number of species that may be able to transport it.

    LOUISE WILLIS: Presumably if these are migrating birds that might bring this flu to Australia, it's a seasonal thing, would it be at this time of year that the birds would be arriving?

    JOHN ROBERTS: We have had the introduction in this time of the year in the past, so presumably there could still be birds migrating south at this time of the year.

    LOUISE WILLIS: Queensland's Acting Chief Veterinary Officer John Roberts is referring to the suspected cause of five outbreaks of bird flu in Australia since the 1970s. The worst a virulent strain discovered in a poultry farm in Tamworth, New South Wales, in 1997, where 100,000 chickens were destroyed.

    There's never been a reported human case of bird flu in Australia, but those outbreaks were of a different strain to the one currently in South East Asia. Australia's Quarantine and Health agencies are now on alert, and have urged the poultry industry to do the same.

    Executive Director of the Australian Chicken Meat Federation, Doctor Jeff Fairbrother, says the industry is well aware of the dangers of migrating birds and water fowl.

    JEFF FAIRBROTHER: We put our BI security alerts out, warning people – growers.

    LOUISE WILLIS: If you acknowledge that bird flu could arrive in Australia from migrating birds, from Vietnam and South East Asia, you would also then have to prepare for the prospect of it being transferred from chickens to humans. What kind of outbreak or devastation could that cause?

    JEFF FAIRBROTHER: You know, I'm hesitant to say that it can't possibly happen, because that would be silly, but if I was a betting man I'd say that the odds are pretty remote that we would have that sort of problem in Australia, and I do believe that the BI security on our farms, and our broader farms, our chicken meat farms and our egg-laying farms are probably as good as anywhere in the world, and, you know, we have been through avian influenza outbreaks and Newcastle disease outbreaks, and as a result of this the standard of shedding, the standard of husbandry, everything has improved incredibly, you know, in say, the last three or four years.

    DAVID HARDAKER: The Australian Chicken Meat Federation's Dr Jeff Fairbrother speaking to Louise Willis.
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