A highly infectious strain of bird flu has been spreading since 2014 and has been disastrous for both poultry and other birds in the US and Europe during 2022.  It has now reached pelicans in Peru and penguins in Africa.  It could reach NZ via migratory birds.

Biosecurity NZ will work closely with the Department of Conservation to manage any outbreak of the disease.

Prof Brett Gartrell, wildlife vet at Massey University, was interviewed by Kim Hill on the RNZ Saturday programme on 3 December and you can read more and listen to the interview here.

The New Zealand fairy tern is one of the country’s most endangered birds. Photo: DOC

The approach in the northern hemisphere has been to kill every infected bird, with a focus on the poultry industry.  All those in an area a few kilometres across when an infection is found are killed to try to stop the disease spreading.  That would not work in New Zealand where some native birds exist only in small rare locations, for example the fairy tern / tara iti or the Westland petrel / taiko.

In addition, signs at beaches in Europe have warned beach goers over summer to report any sign of sick birds, and not to touch sick or dead birds.  Risk to humans is low, but a risk remains.

Migratory birds have already arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand for the summer so it’s important to be sharing this information.

The key message is not to touch sick or dead birds but to report them to the DOC hotline 0800 DOC Hot (362 468) and or the Biosecurity NZ Exotic Pest and Disease Hotline 0800 80 99 66.

UK avian flu sign
Avian flu signs were at beaches across the UK in summer 2022