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Study finds culling more effective than vaccinating

Posted on 13. September, 2011.

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In both economic and epidemiological terms, the practice of culling on farms within a radius of 1 to 3 km of infected farms is the best method of combating Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) according to a recent study by the Netherlands-based research group Wageningen UR.

The study found that while vaccinating chickens within a radius of 3 km of an infected farm may at first appear to be cheaper, it is less effective because the epidemic spreads further and lasts longer.

The study looked at the consequences of preventative culling and of vaccination programmes within a radius of 1, 3 and 10 km of a farm infected with Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, also known as bird flu. The report shows that an epidemic is shorter in duration when preventative culling takes place, but that this results in culling taking place on more farms than in the case of vaccinations. Emergency vaccinations are less effective in shortening the duration of the epidemic, although they do reduce the number of infected farms. The EU strategy of only implementing culling on infected farms is not effective enough in helping to control an outbreak in a densely-populated poultry-rearing area, according to the report.

The report was commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture & Innovation to provide a basis for decisions made in the event of a new HPAI epidemic. It describe the various strategies available to the government in the event of an outbreak of HPAI.

The complete report, “Control of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza” is available at http://www.lei.dlo.nl/publicaties/PDF/2011/2011-032.pdf 

In picture: Poultry farm, photo courtesy of Kim Newberg.

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