News / Te Niwha experts called on as Avian Influenza spreads

Te Niwha experts called on as Avian Influenza spreads

godwits avian flu project landscape

Genomics-informed detection, surveillance and capacity building to prepare Aotearoa for bird flu

Avian influenza has now spread to all continents except Oceania. In a new development, the virus has been confirmed in a United States dairy worker who contracted it from cows.

One of Te Niwha’s more than 70 infectious disease research projects uses latest genomic technologies to understand how and where the highly infectious avian influenza, and other potentially devastating viruses, could impact Aotearoa New Zealand. Read about the research project.

As avian influenza evolves and presents a growing threat, Te Niwha experts such as Chief Science Advisor Distinguished Professor Nigel French, geneticist and project leader Professor Jemma Geoghegan, and Co-leader Dr David Winter, have helped explain what developments in the virus mean for Aotearoa New Zealand in interviews with media. Watch video of Professor French in a Newshub story talking after the virus was reported in a dairy work in the US.

Other news stories on avian influenza featuring Te Niwha experts over the past year:

1 News (May 2024): H5N1 bird flu 'highly likely' to arrive in NZ in near future

RNZ (May 2024): Calls for vigilance as bird flu cases hit Australia 

RNZ (May 2024): NZ must be prepared for bird flu, experts say, as Australia confirms first human case (May 2024): Q&A - avian influenza H5N1

Public Health Expert Briefing (May 2024): Potential for an avian influenza pandemic: Time for NZ to ramp up preparedness. 

NZ Herald (May 2024): First suspected case of cow-to-human bird flu transfer means NZ must be prepared – epidemiologist.

Radio NZ (May 2024): Dozens of cattle infected with bird flu in the US. 

Dairy News (May 2024): Avian influenza threatens dairy industry in New Zealand.

RNZ The Panel (May 2024): Wallace Chapman and panellists discuss whether we should be taking Avian flu more seriously

NZ Doctor (May 2024): New Zealand urged to boost pandemic preparedness as bird flu spreads in US cattle (April 2024): What risk is bird flu outbreak to humans?

NZ Herald (April 2024): Spread of bird flu among species, countries ‘definitely cause for concern' – NZ virologist.

The Listener (April 2024): NZ scientists sharpen tolls as bird fly draws closer.

Farmers Weekly (April 2024): Bird flu could dive bomb dairying. 

TV1 News (March 2024) Research aims to boost NZ's defence against avian flu 

Otago Daily Times (March 2024): Scientists look at bird flu as next threat.

Radio NZ (March 2024): Researchers aim to detect deadly bird flu early.

Radio NZ (February 2024): It’s killing birds in unprecedented scales: bird flu comes closer to NZ.

Science Media Centre (February 2024): Bird flu arrives in mainland antarctica. 

Otago Daily Times (February 2024): Could be catastrophic: Otago Prof sounds warning over bird flu.

Science Media Centre (October 2023): Expert reaction: Deadly bird flu outbreaks are starting in new places.

Radio NZ (October 2023): Surveillance of bird flu risk crucial says expert

Radio NZ (August 2023): Is New Zealand prepared for a potential bird flu infection?

The Conversation (August 2023): Thousands of migratory birds will make NZ landfill in Spring – will they bring deadly bird flu with them? (August 2023): Is a deadly bird flu coming to New Zealand? 

Otago Daily Times (August 2023): Greater alert level needed for lethal bird flu.

“While there is heightened concern about the emergence and spread of H5N1 it is important to maintain perspective. To date there is no evidence of person to person spread of this strain and it is yet to arrive in Oceania. Its spread to all other continents and transmission in mammalian hosts has triggered new initiatives to enhance surveillance (including the Te Niwha project), continually assess the threat, and respond to any incursion. These measures will help to minimise the impact of the virus in Aotearoa.”

Images of birds of Aotearoa New Zealand involved in Te Niwha study.

As part of the avian influenza project, researchers are collecting samples from migratory, sea and shore birds in sites such as the Firth of Thames and the Auckland Islands. Postdoctoral Researcher Janelle Wierenga is credited with capturing the following images of sample collection. 


The Southern Royal Albatross: Campbell Island.

Credit: Janelle Wierenga.

Hoiho: Campbell Island.

Credit: Janelle Weirenga.

Eastern Rockhoppers: Campbell Island.

Credit: Janelle Wierenga.

Migratory birds: Firth of Thames.

Credit: Janelle Wierenga.

Godwits: Motueka.

Credit: Janelle Wierenga.