Between 31 July and 25 August 2020, three different strains of avian influenza were detected across six infected farms in the north, east and west Victoria, and an incident control centre (ICC) was set up in Ballarat to coordinate the response.
Avian flu struck four poultry farms near Lethbridge (north-west of Geelong), one poultry farm near Bairnsdale and an emu farm near Kerang.
When an avian flu outbreak occurs on a farm, it’s common for more than one farm to become infected. However, it’s unusual to see three strains occur at the same time.
Properties with the virus were cleaned and disinfected, and exclusion zones were set up.
After several weeks of working to bring the outbreaks under control, Agriculture Victoria requested emergency management expertise from other organisations, including CFA, to relieve its staff in the ICC.
CFA Assistant Chief Fire Officer David Harris joined the ICC for a week as the deputy incident controller and incident controller.
“Outbreaks of avian flu are quite significant events because they can impact industry, international trade and state borders,” David said.
“My responsibility was to review the internal risk register and streamline the surveillance system to return to business as usual. We had to check poultry and other birds in restricted areas.”
There have been no new infected properties in Victoria since late August.
Matt Lowe, Chief Executive of Agriculture Victoria, was grateful for the skills and experience of the agency staff who supported Agriculture Victoria.
“This response demonstrates the value of interoperability across the Victorian public sector in responding to emergency events,” Mr Lowe said. “We look forward to continuing to work with you to strengthen the capability and capacity of the Victorian public sector to respond to future biosecurity emergencies.”