Update on highly pathogenic avian influenza

Published on 27 November 2023.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has provided the update below on highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).

New Zealand has never had a case of HPAI. The risk for HPAI arriving in New Zealand right now remains low, however, we are closely monitoring disease spread, and this may change.

The strain of HPAI A(H5N1) that is currently circulating internationally has demonstrated an ability to rapidly spread long distances via migratory birds. You may have read in the media recently about the rapid spread of HPAI into South Georgia. If HPAI is detected in New Zealand and/or its territories, Biosecurity New Zealand (the biosecurity arm of MPI) is the lead agency and will coordinate a response. International experience has shown that a One Health approach to the current strain of HPAI is essential. For this reason, we are collaborating across MPI, the Department of Conservation (DOC) and the Ministry of Health to prepare for a detection of HPAI in New Zealand.

The current strain of disease has caused significant losses in wild bird populations, including endangered species. It has repeatedly crossed over into domestic and commercial poultry flocks, causing significant economic losses. It can also infect a range of mammalian species, including seals and humans. It is important to note that mammal to mammal transmission has not occurred but, because of the potential for the emergence of a strain that can be transferred between mammals, ongoing monitoring and reporting of cases in all mammal species is required. HPAI has caused a limited number of human infections and fatalities, primarily among those in direct contact with heavily infected environments or flocks.

You can find information on clinical signs in birds and what to do if you suspect HPAI on MPI's website.

It is important to practice good hygiene and biosecurity measures when working with wildlife and report any suspected cases to the MPI Exotic Pest & Disease Hotline 0800 80 99 66.

Download DOC's advice for wildlife managers and bird banders.

Download MPI's factsheet on reporting avian influenza.