Avian Influenza A Possible Threat to Chinese Poultry Industry: 01-15-2020

China has become a major change factor in the global poultry market. Currently, the country’s poultry industry is booming because of the shift of Chinese consumer’s protein preference pertaining to widespread of ASF and high pig prices. Furthermore, the supply imbalance of hog created by the inter-provincial ban on live hog transport has created a protein shortage in the country, which has raised prices across all protein.  Chicken prices in China are already showing a sharp increase in prices, driven by improved demand and limited supply because of a low domestic breeding stock supply. Therefore, the Chinese government have increased the Chicken imports and has also allowed access to countries like the US and EU. However, a factor that seems to be remaining the biggest challenge for the Chinese poultry industry is that of Avian Influenza, which had hurt the industry a few years back.

Despite the lower number of cases in 2018, AI is still the major concern for the industry, especially in the early Northern Hemisphere winter season. So far, in 2018 and early 2019 the number of outbreaks in China and other regions of Asia have been lower and this positively supports the local industry. However, it’s not just an H5N1 strand of influenza that has been dissipated. The virus’s nearly-as-scary cousin, H7N9 that emerged in China in 2013 and sickened more than 1,500 people in the country over five years, killing over 40%of them.

But after an extraordinary surge of cases, the infection declines and since 2018 only a few cases have been reported. Scientists do know about the mutation of the H5N1 virus that resulted in the emergence of a lot of new pairing over a fairly shorter period, and the most common, most dangerous viruses emerged were H5N6 and H5N8, both highly pathogenic.  According to influenza expert Malik Peiris, a professor of virology at the University of Hong Kong, “the H5N1 virus is still there. It’s just changed into different versions of itself”. Peiris suggest that it will be a mistake to consider the evolution of the virus as a positive development only, as now we have two high pathogenic viruses icing around. Though the virus may no longer be in the headline, but with current high imports of poultry, it very much remains a concern for influenza experts and scientists. The virus can infect a wide variety of birds and not just the domestic poultry but ducks and migratory birds such as some type of geese.

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