Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Biosecurity: Keeping diseases out of the farm

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By Katie Keiger

Poultry Times staff

WASHINGTON — The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is on a mission to keep poultry farmers aware of the latest and most effective biosecurity measures in the hopes of preventing outbreaks similar to the one in 2015 which cost U.S. poultry professionals hundreds of millions of dollars.

Viruses and bacteria are complicated and spread in various ways, but diseases including all strains of avian influenza, have a common enemy; sanitation. Heat through direct flame or steam can sanitize an area, but disinfectants and soaps are efficient and more manageable.

APHIS said to have farm employees and anyone visiting the farm to have clean shoes and clothes, even if they do not intend to come in contact with live birds.

Disease agents can live for days, some such as Marek’s Disease can survive for years under normal conditions, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Equipment and vehicles that comes from outside should be clean every time before entering the facility to ensure no outside germs are coming inside. The areas where the birds are kept, including stationary equipment in the facility, should be cleaned regularly as well.

There are various chemicals that can be used to sanitize farms, but many are very strong and can cause severe burns. Chemicals should be used with caution and safety gear when necessary. The CDC warns to always stay informed of the disinfectant being used and to read labels carefully.

Some disease carriers do not require heavy chemicals to be destroyed. Litter and feed can be the home of many organisms which carry pathogens. As a precaution, all litter and food must be removed completely, not mixed or used later, before liquid soaps are used. Removing inorganic and organic materials can reduce microorganisms.

Stored open food containers also pose risks as chicken feed attracts rodents and other creatures that could potentially be carriers of disease. Standing water sources like wells that are contaminated or have been used by an infected flock should not be used again because the water could become the source of the disease entering another flock.

The USDA always recommends against sharing poultry equipment and since the first case of avian influenza in the U.S., many states have temporarily banned sharing poultry products like cages and tools. Avian influenza is particularly dangerous because low pathogenic forms of the virus do not show any symptoms or signs in the chickens, but can mutate to become deadly after a time.

Not all low pathogenic strains mutate, and sometimes birds can fight the infection off on their own, but it is more difficult to do in a large flock. Often, farmers do not want to take the risk, both financially with the cost of resources and physically to themselves, and end up culling the infected flock.

Backyard flocks should be kept under the same biosecurity protocol that commercial flocks are called under. Even free-range chickens and turkeys should be housed if there is a threat of disease. The states that are under temporary suspension on poultry do not restrict private sales of birds.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) said to keep new birds separate from the flock for four weeks to see if any disease symptoms show up. The FDACS also reminds poultry producers that even vaccinated birds are susceptible.

Biosecurity is mostly defined as prevention techniques, but staying informed and being able to act quickly if a flock is already infected is equally as important.

Research veterinarian with the USDA David Swayne said that diseases like AI can be spread through particles in dust and the wind. With risks like that, broiler house employees should never let their guard down and should all know the signs of illness.

According to the CDC, AI can be detected in birds through observing the following; lack of coordination, purple discoloration of the wattles and legs, soft-shelled or misshapen eggs, lack of energy, lack of appetite, diarrhea, swelling, nasal discharge, decreased egg production, coughing or sneezing. Sudden death without any signs is also a warning sign for AI.

The FAO added that dead, wild birds should be reported if the death appears abnormal or if there are multiple dead birds within a small area.

All reports of avian influenza should be reported to the USDA at 866-536-7593.

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