Avian flu: Biosecurity could be brought down by backyard birdkeepers

University of the Sunshine Coast

Avian flu has been causing devastation to farms in the United States since late 2023, and now Australia is on high alert with the first human case reported last week.

A child on a flight from India tested positive for the H5N1 strain that is known to pass between birds, cats and cattle – but rarely humans. We’ve been told that threat is now contained, but we must remain vigilant as this strain has caused untold animal deaths globally since 2020 except for in Australia and the rest of Oceania.

Meanwhile, the H7N3 strain of avian flu is already prevalent in Australia, with outbreaks at two egg farms. H7N3 is highly pathogenic and can cause severe illness in birds. While transmission to humans in Australia has not been reported in this outbreak, H7N3 and other avian influenza viruses have been known to transmit to and cause illness in humans.

Australia’s biosecurity program has leapt into action, with hundreds of thousands of commercial birds culled, and monitoring on high alert, but there’s still the chance we might miss something – that there’s a gap in our armour.

And I think that gap could be backyard farms.

/University Public Release. View in full here.