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Poultry operators urged to review biosecurity plans

By JONATHAN CRIBBS
Associate Editor

(March 14, 2017) Regional agriculture officials urged poultry producers last week to reexamine their biosecurity plans and remain vigilant after highly pathogenic avian influenza was discovered in a commercial chicken breeder flock in central Tennessee — the first outbreak of the dreaded virus in the nation this year.
Tennessee officials quarantined the operation and culled its 73,500-bird flock after the March 5 outbreak to prevent the virus from spreading beyond the Lincoln County farm. USDA officials have determined the strain of the virus is from a North American wild bird lineage.
“This outbreak in Tennessee is a stark reminder that HPAI can hit anywhere, anytime, and we need to make sure we are prepared for a possible outbreak here in Maryland,” Maryland Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder said in a statement. “I urge all of our poultry owners — from large commercial operations to small backyard flocks — to remain vigilant in your biosecurity practices and record-keeping.”
The Tennessee farm is located within the Mississippi flyway, one of four bird migratory patterns that traverse the country from north to south.
The Delmarva region is in the Atlantic flyway, which, so far, has escaped any known incidence of the virus in poultry, though it ravaged Midwestern poultry operations in 2015. Roughly 48 million birds were culled, and the outbreak cost farmers $2 billion in management costs and lost exports. Since the Tennessee outbreak, several countries, including Japan and South Korea, have restricted poultry imports from the state.
“It is each grower’s responsibility to prevent the introduction of the potentially deadly virus into chicken houses,” the Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc. said in a statement last week. “Growers are the first line of defense. … Growers should not count on others to protect their farms and their families’ financial futures.”
Among the recommendations the trade organization offered to farmers:
• Limit visitors on chicken farms and minimize foot traffic, especially in the chicken houses;
• Block driveways and lock chicken house doors to discourage or prevent visitors;
• Avoid contact with wild and domestic fowl;
• Tighten chicken houses to keep free flying birds out of the houses;
• Avoid the sharing of farm equipment and farm personnel;
• Have a clean and functioning footbath at each entrance to the chicken house;
• Ensure that all visitors or personnel have disinfected footwear or new footwear before entering a house;
• Change clothes and footwear after visiting community gathering sites where other growers might congregate;
• Have chicken house-only footwear, one pair for each house;
• Keep a visitors’ log to record who has been on the farm and when;
• Make sure feed and water sources are covered and free of contaminants, limiting the attraction of wild fowl and pests;
• Post signs to discourage and/or prevent unnecessary visitors;
• Employ effective pest and wild bird management practices;
• Keep four-legged creatures out of houses;
• Adequately train whomever has access to the farm and chicken houses, including family members, on biosecurity and disease prevention;
• Avoid entering the houses after hunting without first cleaning and changing clothes and footwear;
• Avoid all contact with ducks and geese and other wild waterfowl. They are known carriers of the virus.
• Make sure necessary visitors such as delivery and repair personnel are practicing good biosecurity that might include wearing disposable footwear and clothing. If they are not meeting growers’ expectations, they should be kept off of chicken farms.
In Delaware, additional information about avian influenza can be found at http://dda.delaware.gov/poultryah/avianinfluenza.shtml. In Maryland, it can be found at http://mda.maryland.gov/Pages/AvianFlu.aspx.
Further information on biosecurity measures can be found on this USDA website: www.aphis.usda.gov/animalhealth/defendtheflock.