Not a time to ‘duck’ safeguarding (Editorial)

(Jan. 24, 2017) It has become a way of life for Delmarva poultry farmers — the constant vigilance against an attack by the avian flu virus.
It’s been on Delmarva before and farmers know it could visit again.
Now, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has detected the presence of the high-path version of avian influenza in a wild mallard duck in Montana.
That’s right: Montana. And Maryland Ag Secretary Joe Bartenfelder has extended the emergency orders guarding growers against an invasion here.
In announcing the avian flu alert, the Maryland Department of Agriculture stressed there has been no detection of associated illness or mortality in domestic poultry here but the alert, “serves as a timely reminder of the continuing threat of HPAI in the United States.”
The state’s quarantine orders require all hatching eggs and poultry entering the state to be tested within 21 days or come from certified clean sources.
Poultry markets must maintain records of all birds sold or purchased.
The quarantine also requires all commercial poultry farms to meet “basic biosecurity and sanitation practice.”
They include a “Restricted Access” sign at the farm gate, washing stations and boot covers. Coverage of feed storage areas and containment of all carcasses.
All poultry must be tested within 21 days of entry to an exhibition or originate from a certified “clean flock” and MDA animal health officials will be on site at all auctions, examining and testing birds.
The quarantine order went into effect on Jan. 1, and will be enforced until June 30.
Most recently, the high-path flu entered the Pacific Northwest in December 2014 and infected backyard, commercial turkey and commercial chicken flocks from December through August 2015.
To date, high-path flu, over the course of the years, has been confirmed in a total of 231 locations in 15 states and has impacted more than 50 million birds.
It is carried by migratory waterfowl, which puts Delmarva poultry flocks right in its sites.
The peninsula is in the Atlantic flyway and animal health experts expected the virus threat to appear again during the fall migratory season, which started on Delmarva in early September.
The commercial poultry industry provides the economic foundation of the peninsula and an invasion of high-path flu could create an economic disaster.
“We have every reason to believe that high-path avian influenza will remain a threat for years to come,” Bartenfelder said, adding, “I strongly encourage all flock owners and managers to take this disease very seriously and to practice enhanced biosecurity at all times.”
Amen, Mr. Secretary, amen.