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What You Need to Know About the Current Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Outbreaks

Posted by Dr. John Clifford, USDA Chief Veterinary Officer in Animals Plants
Feb 21, 2017

Today I had a press call with our USDA partner, Dr. Alicia Fry from CDC and Dr. David Swayne of USDA’s Southeast Poultry Research Lab to help get out some important information about the avian influenza event currently occurring in the United States.

Since December 2014, USDA has confirmed cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 in the Pacific, Central and Mississippi Flyways (migratory paths for birds). The disease has been found in wild birds, as well as in some backyard and commercial poultry flocks.

There are three important things that you need to know about this situation:

  1. Our food supply is safe.  Food is safe because the United States has the strongest AI surveillance system in the world.  We actively look for the disease, educate the public and producers on the most appropriate practices to ensure their health and safety, as well as provide compensation to affected producers to encourage disease reporting.
  2. The risk to humans is low.  No human infections with these viruses have been detected, and the CDC considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections in wild birds, backyard flocks, and commercial poultry to be low.
  3. USDA will continue to do everything it can to support states and producers. We are coordinating closely with State officials and other Federal departments on rigorous surveillance, reporting, and control efforts. At the same time, USDA will continue to work with Congress to ensure that we are able to provide a much-needed safety net to the poultry producers who are experiencing economic hardships as a result of losses due to the disease.

Along with industry, USDA and its Federal and State partners are responding quickly and decisively to these outbreaks.  You can learn more about the situation and USDA’s response by listening to a recording of the press conference: (MP3, 7.0 MB).

You too can help by continuing to practice good biosecurity if you own birds.  All birds owners, whether commercial producers or backyard enthusiasts, should prevent contact between their birds and wild birds and report sick birds or unusual birds deaths to State/Federal officials, either through their state veterinarian or through USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593.

Learn more about biosecurity for backyard flocks at  More information about USDA avian influenza efforts is available at

Category/Topic: Animals Plants

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CJ Johnson
Apr 26, 2015

Please clarify the statement that HPAI does not survive well in temperatures above 70 degrees. How does that work, exactly? Birds' body temperatures are much higher than 70 degrees.

Andrew Kaiser DVM
Jun 01, 2015

Current status of avian influenza vaccine! Combined with newcastle or mareks disease?


Dr Kaiser(Drew) Katherine Road Animal Hospital, Quincy, il

Ben Weaver
Jun 04, 2015

@Andrew Kaiser: Thank you for your comment. The USDA Southeast Poultry Research Lab (SEPRL) scientists are developing a vaccine seed strain for potential emergency use, which would be designed to give optimal protection in poultry, although it is too early in the development process. SEPRL does vaccine seed strain development and testing as a routine research activity. These scientists have developed a candidate vaccine seed strain for an inactivated vaccine that currently is being tested. As you might know, there are several steps in the development process. Because vaccine development occurs in many stages and because the next steps are dependent on the outcomes of these stages, we cannot predict when the vaccine has reached the stage for use in poultry. USDA cannot have a vaccine considered for use in the field until it is shown to work in the experimental studies in the laboratory. We will provide an update as soon as our researchers have finished the project.