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Protecting your Flock during Fall Migration

Posted by Jack Shere, DVM, Ph.D., USDA/APHIS Deputy Administrator, Veterinary Services, U.S. Chief Veterinary Officer in Animals
Oct 16, 2017
Migrating mallards flying
Waterfowl fly at 40 to 60 miles per hour. Migrating mallards can cover 800 miles in 8 hours if helped by 50 mile per hour tail winds.

We know you’ve heard it before: seasonal migratory patterns bring an increased risk of disease-carrying birds interacting with commercial or backyard poultry. But the health and safety of our U.S. poultry flock is important enough to make it worth repeating. Birds, particularly waterfowl like ducks and geese, can carry avian influenza without showing any symptoms or signs of disease. Because the risk of introduction never goes away, having strong biosecurity practices on poultry operations can help prevent the spread of infectious disease before it starts. The 2014-2015 U.S. Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) outbreak is never far from my mind. It forced us to reevaluate our preparedness and response capabilities, from a federal, state, and industry standpoint. Today, we are all better prepared to handle and quickly respond to avian influenza detections.

Our Wild Bird Surveillance Program, which has been in place for more than a decade, is on-going. Since July 2015, USDA and our partners have collected more than 90,000 samples to monitor avian influenza strains in wild birds in the United States. This improves our ability to detect these viruses and helps poultry producers and others make informed management decisions. The program also gives us a chance to learn more about the virus, including the make-up and transmission of various virus strains.

We’ve taken these experiences and lessons learned from the 2014-15 outbreak and developed Defend the Flock, an outreach program that offers commercial poultry growers important information to help put the best biosecurity practices into place. Defend the Flock provides multiple resources for poultry growers, including guidance on biosecurity basics, an assessment tool to help strengthen their biosecurity programs, and sharable materials to help everyone at their operations better understand biosecurity’s importance.

Defend The Flock graphic
Stay up-to-date on the latest biosecurity information by following #DefendTheFlock on Twitter.

Everyone who has poultry in their care can help defend the U.S. poultry industry by reviewing the following biosecurity basics. Together, we have made great strides in our preparedness and response capabilities. Protecting American poultry remains a top USDA priority. Biosecurity can stop the disease before it stops. Visit Defend the Flock to learn more.

Two Mallards
Two Mallards on a lake.
Category/Topic: Animals