Industry prepares for potential reemergence of avian flu

Egg_Hen_House_BlogAs wild birds begin to migrate south from Canada, the National Chicken Council (NCC) has identified the top biosecurity principles for broiler and broiler-breeder producers in preparation for the potential reemergence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) this fall.

As explained in a recent article, biosecurity is the poultry industry’s first line of defense to all avian diseases, including HPAI. The following biosecurity measures have been identified by NCC, members of the NCC biosecurity working group, veterinarians and avian health experts as the most important to prevent disease spread and promote flock health: 

  • Limit visitors on the farm and minimize foot traffic
  • Avoid contact with wild and domestic fowl
  • Avoid the sharing of farm equipment
  • Have a clean and functioning footbath at each entrance to the broiler house
  • Ensure that all visitors or personnel have disinfected or new footwear before entering a house or facility
  • Make sure feed and water sources are covered and free of contaminants, limiting the attraction of wild fowl and pests
  • Have official signage clearly stating the farm is a biosecure zone and any unauthorized entry is strictly prohibited
  • Employ effective pest and wild bird management practices
  • Adequately train farmers, farm and company personal in biosecurity and disease prevention

“Rigorous implementation of biosecurity principles will be essential to preventing disease introduction onto broiler chicken operations,” NCC President Mike Brown said in the article. “I know each industry has been preparing similarly. By maintaining this strong collaboration and sharing of lessons learned, I am confident we will all be in a much better place this year.”

Poultry and egg farms in 15 states were affected by the disease this past spring, with the biggest impact in Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska. About 48 million birds died from the virus or where euthanize to prevent its spread, and the industry is just starting to recover, the article states.

“I know the USDA is planning and preparing for potential outbreaks this fall across all major flyways in the U.S.,” The Iowa Poultry Association’s Randy Olson said in another article. “That doesn’t mean that they know there will be infections, but considering the experience of this spring, I think they, like everybody, are just trying to anticipate and be in a position to react quickly if something does happen.”

Olson added that it is likely to take 12 to 18 months to replace the birds that were lost during the spring outbreak. While he said some farmers are expecting new birds as soon as September, it will take another few month for them to reach full production again.

In the meantime, farmers are dividing their healthy birds and moving them to other areas in case they are hit with the disease again.

“USDA has been watching these birds up in their nesting areas,” Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey said in the article. “The birds are mixing with each other, so we know they are carrying this disease.”

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To read the recommendations in their entirety, click here.

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