MDA proceeding with caution (Editorial)

(July 19, 2016) Avian flu does not necessarily take a summer vacation.
So says the Maryland Department of Agriculture as it ordered renewal of its high path avian influenza emergency orders which had been in place through last fall and this spring.
In response to the continuing threat of an outbreak, the existing quarantine orders require all hatching eggs and poultry entering the state to be tested within 10 days or come from certified clean sources.
Poultry markets must maintain records of all birds sold or purchased and all commercial poultry farms must meet basic biosecurity and sanitation practices.
They include:
• Farms must have restricted access using a “Restricted Access” sign, gate or both;
• Entry and exits to poultry growing areas must utilize footbaths, mats, boot washing stations, foot covers or footwear change to prevent movement of contaminants into or out of the area;
• Feed must be covered and secured to prevent wild birds, rodents or other animals from accessing feed; and
• Poultry carcasses, used litter, or other disease containing organic materials must be covered and contained in a way to prevent animal access or movement of materials by wind.
It should be noted that poultry exhibitions — including those with waterfowl — will be allowed, but all poultry must be tested within 10 days of entry to an exhibition or originate from a certified clean flock.
Poultry auctions are not currently impacted by the order because Maryland Department of Agriculture Animal Health officials are on site at all auctions, examining and testing birds.
However, if high path avian influenza is suspected in the region, poultry auctions, markets, and exhibitions will be closed down.
MDA offcials said the quarantine order went into effect on July 1 and will remain until at least Dec. 31. 2016.
High path avian influenza entered the Pacific Northwest of the United States in December 2014 and since then has been confirmed at 231 locations in 15 states.
It has impacted more than 50 million birds.
Although the virus does not live in hot temperatures and incidents of HPAI decline over the summer, animal health experts expect cases to appear again during the fall migratory season.
We agree with Ag Secretary Joe Bartenfelder that any incidence of avian flu ould be “an economic disaster for Maryland’s largest agricultural sector.”
“We have every reason to believe that high path avian influenza will remain a threat for years to come,” Bartenfelder said, “and we are making every effort to keep it out of our commercial chicken houses and backyard flocks.”
For the record, in Virginia there are no current “restrictions” on poultry events and no additional requirements than what is required by code and regulation currently, such as AI pre-movement testing.
Somewhat similarly, Delaware has no restrictions beyond what is normally required for the state fair starting this week — AI testing for all bird entries. Maryland’s high path avian flu shield, thus, is even more significant.
Avian flu is no stranger to the Delmarva poultry industry.
And even though the threat has diminished for the summer months. there is no reason for the poultry industry to let down its guard.
Scientists say that land-based, four-legged critters can also carry the virus onto the farm.
So, this rule should reign: Don’t take chances.