Coles introduces product limit as virus fears grow

Five farms in Victoria have found the deadly virus among their birds, with 450,000 having to be euthanised.

The exterior of a Coles supermarket and an aisle, as bird flu fears grow.
As the strain of bird flu continues to be found, Coles has limited the amount of eggs customers can buy. Source: Coles

Coles is restricting the amount of eggs customers can buy in supermarkets after bird flu was detected at yet another poultry farm, bringing the number of total infected properties to five. The product limit impacts customers nationwide, except in Western Australia, as concerns grow about the continued spread of the virus.

Four farms near Meredith in Victoria, between Ballarat and Geelong, have confirmed they've detected the high pathogenicity H7N3 strain of avian influenza, while the fifth, near the regional town of Terang also in Victoria, found an infection of the H7N9 strain.

A total of half a million chickens have now been euthanised as a result while quarantine zones are established to restrict the movement of birds and equipment.

The announcement comes as authorities on Saturday revealed the country's first human infection of the bird flu likely came from India.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) alerted health authorities in Australia that a suspected case of avian influenza A (H5N1) virus was detected in Melbourne, which was later confirmed by the Victorian health department. A WHO investigation found a two-year-old girl who had travelled to Kolkata in India between February 12 and 29 and returned to Melbourne on March 1, had likely contracted the disease before returning to Australia.

A caged chicken and a chicken taken for testing, as bird flu spreads across Victoria.
A fifth Victorian farm has revealed it has detected the deadly bird flu virus. Source: NCA Newswire / Getty

The child was admitted to a Melbourne hospital on March 2. In the following days her condition worsened and she was transferred to the intensive care unit where she remained for a week. She was discharged from hospital 2.5 weeks later and is now reported to be clinically well.

Victoria is the third-largest egg producing state in the country, with the Victorian Farmers Federation revealing approximately one in every 16 egg-laying chickens had now been killed, reducing the state's supply by about 450,000 eggs a day.

As a result, Coles said it was introducing a temporary limit of two egg cartons per customer in all stores except in WA. "We are working closely with all of our suppliers to ensure eggs remain available for our customers," a spokesperson told media.

"We are providing support to the industry in responding to the avian flu cases in Victoria."

A spokesperson for Woolworths told Yahoo News Australia that no buying limits will be introduced in their stores. Yahoo has contacted Aldi over whether its egg supplies have been affected.

Avian influenza, better known as bird flu, is a highly contagious viral infection in birds. Some of the serious strains can cause severe symptoms and even death in poultry.

There are mild strains of the flu that result in few or no symptoms and can go undetected, while other mild strains can evolve into severe strains. Poultry farmers, and owners of backyard flocks are being encouraged to report any unexplained deaths.

Agriculture authorities have said chicken meat and eggs are safe to consume and there is no risk to the public.

The strains detected at the five farms are not the same as the outbreak of H5N1 in other parts of the world.

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