By Maria Gregoriou
AUTHORITIES have said there have been no new reported incidents of the contagious Newcastle disease after some 190,000 chickens were culled between June and July and a vaccination programme was implemented at poultry farms.
Newcastle Disease Virus (NDV), a contagious bird disease affecting wild and domestic species, was first found in three farms in Nicosia’s Kokkinotrimithia farming zone in mid-June, but was later detected in poultry in the village of Prodromi in the Paphos district. About 50,000 poultry died from NDV, and a further 190,000 were culled – mostly in the Nicosia district farms.
Authorities reported the incidents on June 20, after the European Union’s UK-based Newcastle Disease reference laboratory confirmed the virus had been detected. About a month later, on July 19, agriculture minister Nicos Kouyialis said the virus was under control. There were no further reported outbreaks.
Veterinary services were furnished with imported vaccines in July, said the official in charge for coordinating and implementing a contingency plan, Christodoulos Pipis.
“How many poultry were vaccinated and at which farms or units depends on the vaccination programme applied at each farm,” said Pipis, who is the veterinary services’ acting head of animal health and welfare division.
Pipis said that in June and July they would take daily test samples to see how the virus behaved and evolved. Vehicles leaving the infected farms had to be disinfected and a radius of three kilometres was set around the farms as a protection zone, while a surveillance zone of a ten-kilometre radius was also set for a fixed period.
Pipis said farmers must report any NDV suspicions. He added risks to the public were minimal from NDV, because people are not susceptible to the virus even when “meat from diseased poultry is consumed by humans”. But the virus has been linked to conjunctivitis or pink eye and there have been confirmed cases of human infection, although the virus poses no serious risks to public health and usually occurs among poultry workers and veterinarians, according to the US-based Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. But EU member states must report incidents of NDV.
Pipis praised his services and staff for working “diligently and properly” to contain the virus and implement emergency plans.
Cyprus is also making efforts to see EU aid to offset part of the costs of the outbreak, estimated at €680,000. Authorities will need to prove the virus disturbed the markets and impacted producers. Some 20 per cent of chickens in Cyprus were affected by the virus and consumption fell by 30 per cent, as the public avoided chicken and turned to other meats.