Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Industry remains vigilant against bird flu in U.S.

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By David B. Strickland

Poultry Times staff

dstrickland@poultrytimes.com

GAINESVILLE, Ga. — The concern of a possible return of avian influenza this fall has the poultry industry across the nation working toward spreading the word of biosecurity, and carefully watching migratory birds.

The spring outbreak, which mostly affected Iowa and Minnesota, left one outbreak in Arkansas. The Poultry Federation, which represents Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri, is keeping a watchful eye for the poultry industry.

“It’s one of the most serious threats to the industry that I know of,” Marvin Childers, president of the Poultry Federation, said in a statement. “That’s why we’ve been preparing for the fall as the migratory birds go south. I look at the Ducks Unlimited website every day because they have a map that reports where the birds are.”

Continuing the biosecurity message, the Poultry Federation is also advocating a campaign that was started by the Georgia Poultry Federation — “All In or All Gone” (www.allinallgone.com).

“You have to be all in on biosecurity or you run the risk of being all gone,” Childers added. “It is going to require a change in culture, truthfully. Growers have been growing chickens or turkeys for 20 years. They have not been as concerned as they are today about coming out of their house and then disinfecting themselves.”

“Don’t enter a chicken house — or turkey house or hen-laying house — without disinfecting your hands and shoes; don’t wear the same clothes from one farm to the next; don’t go duck hunting,” noted Dustan Clark, poultry veterinarian with the University of Arkansas.

Companies, as well as industry associations, are making sure everyone involved in the industry are working toward maintaining biosecurity.

In a position statement, Tyson Foods noted that, “all of our poultry operations are in a heightened biosecurity status. Tyson Foods employees who come in contact with live birds have received additional training specifically designed to help protect against the spread of HPAI (highly pathogenic avian influenza) and we’re communicating additional biosecurity guidance to the farmers who grow for our company.”

“Our heightened biosecurity measures include limiting non-essential visitor access to our contract farms, maintaining proper disinfection of vehicles entering those farms and the use of a biosecurity uniform,” Tyson Foods added. “Additional precautions for on-farm footwear have been established to prevent potential tracking of the virus into poultry houses.”

Also keeping a watchful eye on the sky and bird flyways, officials in South Carolina are noting now that cooler weather has arrived, waterfowl will begin their migrations.

“HPAI was diagnosed earlier this year in three of the four major migratory bird flyways in the United States,” said Boyd Parr, South Carolina state veterinarian and director of Clemson University Livestock-Poultry Health, in information produced by the university. “USDA has said it expects to detect it in the Atlantic flyway, which passes directly through South Carolina, with the migration this fall or next spring. Should it establish a foothold here, the potential cost is severe.”

Clemson University Livestock-Poultry Health is a state agency that works toward protecting animal health in the state, and would be the lead agency in managing bird flu should it affect South Carolina.

The group is urging poultry farmers that also hunt waterfowl to make sure and not transport potential bird flu virus back to their farms.

“If they have poultry and decide to hunt, they should never go straight from the hunt to their birds,” he said. “Prevention is clearly the immediate goal. We try to spread the word about good biosecurity measures all year. In the face of HPAI, it is all the more important.”

The poultry industry in South Carolina represents approximately $12 billion to the state, which has more than 800 commercial poultry farms and more than 3,350 poultry houses.

“The financial stakes to South Carolina are very high,” Parr added. “There are also lots of small, backyard poultry flocks all over the state, including cities, towns and suburbs. This is literally an issue that affects the entire state. If HPAI does arrive, the potential impact is severe, so we stress immediate reporting of any unexplained poultry mortality.”

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