(Bloomberg) -- Hundreds of thousands of egg-laying chickens are reported to have been culled in Australia’s southeast as quarantine measures are put in place to contain outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza.

The H7N3 bird flu strain was detected on a farm in Terang, about 212 kilometers (132 miles) southwest of Melbourne, agriculture officials in Victoria state reported Thursday. The property is directly connected through joint management, staff and machinery of a farm at Meredith, about 130 kilometers northeast of Terang, where some 400,000 chickens were culled this week to stamp out the virus, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

An unrelated outbreak of low-pathogenic H9N2 bird flu was detected on a poultry farm in Western Australia, Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported Thursday. The outbreaks add to heightened international concern about avian influenza, especially the H5N1 strain that’s spread globally, though hasn’t been reported in Australia.

Cases among humans in direct contact with infected animals are very rare but not impossible, Victoria’s Chief Veterinarian Graeme Cooke said in a statement. “Consumers should not be concerned about eggs and poultry products from the supermarkets, they do not pose a risk and are safe to consume,” he said.

Shares of Australian poultry producer and processor Inghams Group Ltd. fell as much as 2.4% in trading in Sydney early Friday, and have declined about 4% since the initial outbreak was reported on Wednesday. Shares of Collins Foods Ltd., which operates Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in Australia, fell as much as 1.8% early Friday.

The H5N1 virus, first reported about 30 years ago, has devastated wild bird and mammalian species across the globe in recent years. In March, it was reported in dairy cows in the US, where it’s contaminated the milk supply and caused non-serious eye infections in two farm workers. 

Pandemic Risk

Infections in cows and people increase the potential for the virus to undergo adaptive genetic changes that could enable it to infect and spread more efficiently in human respiratory tracts. So far, researchers haven’t seen any signs that that’s occurring.

Bird flu is mostly spread by wild waterfowl like ducks and geese, which bypass Australia during their migration, said Raina MacIntyre, head of the biosecurity program at the University of New South Wales’ Kirby Institute in Sydney. The widespread outbreak of H5N1 in the US may lead to additional bird species carrying the virus along different flyways to waterfowl, she said.

“This means Australia’s protected status may be at risk,” MacIntyre said. 

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