Vic virus chickens surpassed by technology

·1-min read

After half a century of service keeping Victorians safe from mosquito-borne viruses, the state's sentinel chickens are being replaced by faster technology.

Agriculture Victoria and the Department of Health have developed molecular testing that screens mosquito samples directly.

It's been used to detect Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus since 2019.

It means the sentinel chicken program in mosquito-prone areas along the Murray River and tributaries, in place since 1974, is being made redundant.

Weekly blood samples from the chickens were tested by scientists to assess if the birds had been exposed to Murray Valley encephalitis virus or West Nile virus (subtype Kunjin) and it would often take weeks to get results.

Many of the latest cohort of 175 chickens will be rehomed in the local community by flock managers.

Rapid risk assessments for mosquito-borne viruses are undertaken from mid-spring to mid-autumn each year to monitor whether the risk requires public health warnings.

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