No health risk from chicken cull - Ministry

Janna Sherman

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) last night assured Hokitika residents there was “minimal risk” of any human health effects from the cull of 620 tuberculosis (Tb) diseased chickens at a Kaihinu poultry farm earlier this week.
The Westland Medical Centre fielded a number of concerns yesterday from people who had bought eggs from the roadside stall, or had other contact with the birds.
MPI public health principal adviser Craig Thornley said while it was possible humans could be infected with the bacterium that caused the bird illness, it was extremely rare and generally affected only those with severely compromised immune systems.
“The bacterium that causes avian tuberculosis in birds is quite different to the cause of tuberculosis in humans. Spread of the bacteria from birds to humans is extremely unlikely, even if direct contact with faeces from infected birds had occurred,” Dr Thornley said.
“The bacteria are not transferred in eggs, so people who may have eaten eggs from the property in question are also not at any heightened risk.”
The entire chicken farm was culled in the two-day animal welfare operation, which began on Monday at the property owned by Doug Cook, who is currently in custody at Christchurch Men’s Prison on unrelated charges.
A statement issued by MPI yesterday said that while only some birds were infected, many were in poor health and were found in poor conditions.
“They were humanely euthanised and buried at the property.”
Dr Thornley said MPI staff carrying out the operation on Tuesday were wearing protective clothing as a precaution “due to the dirty nature of the property” and not because of any heightened risk of contracting this disease. The ministry advises that if anyone has been in contact with the Kaihinu poultry farm or birds from the farm and feels unwell, they should contact their GP.