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avian influenza

Biosecurity Education and Compliance are Critical in Preventing Avian Influenza Outbreaks

The December 2014 to June 2015 avian influenza outbreak was the largest animal health emergency in U.S. history. The virus contributed to the death of more than 48 million birds, either due to infection with the virus or depopulation to prevent additional spread.  The virus was introduced into the U.S. by wild migratory waterfowl and then spread from farm to farm in a number of ways.  This included farms sharing equipment, vehicles moving between farms without being cleaned or disinfected, employees moving between infected and non-infected farms, rodents and small wild birds reported inside some poultry houses, and feed stored outside or without appropriate biosecurity measures. The virus spread was also assisted by instances of noncompliance with industry-recommended biosecurity practices.

Fortunately, avian influenza poses little threat to human health and food safety. Human infections with avian influenza are rare and most often occur after direct contact with an infected bird. Avian influenza does, however, adversely affect food availability and the economy. If a single bird became infected with the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus during the 2014-15 outbreak, every bird in the same commercial poultry house – which contains an average of 30,000 birds – was depopulated.

USDA Launches a One Stop Shop for its "One Health" Approach to Zoonotic Threats

At USDA, we use a One Health approach that embraces the idea that problems arising at the intersection of the health of humans, animals, and the environment can be solved only through a coordinated multidisciplinary approach.  This approach embraces the idea that a disease problem impacting the health of humans, animals, and the environment only can be solved through improved communication, cooperation, and collaboration across disciplines and institutions.

Because the One Health work that we do spans across many USDA agencies, we are launching a centralized web portal page to better help our stakeholders and the public better access our information.   This page features USDA’s collective body of work on antimicrobial resistance (AMR), avian influenza and swine influenza as well as other One Health resources.

'Tis the Season to Talk Turkey

The Thanksgiving season is upon us, time for family homecomings, parades, and football games. More importantly, time for the annual turkey feast. As the marketing season hits full stride, the question on everyone’s lips this year is…will there be a shortage of turkeys? The simple answer is: no.

To fully answer the question though, we have to go back to late March when commercial turkey flocks in the Upper Midwestern production region were overtaken by rapid outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). HPAI, while harmless to humans, is devastating to turkeys and within a few short weeks over 7.5 million commercial turkeys succumbed to the disease.  While the total loss represented just over three percent of the total number of birds raised in the U.S. in 2014, the short time period during which losses occurred left the industry scrambling to cover their business needs.

Fall Migration Underway - Make Sure to Protect Your Poultry with Good Biosecurity Practices

Earlier this year, we experienced this country’s largest outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza, affecting more than 200 commercial and backyard poultry flocks.  While there have been no new cases since mid-June, we ask that all poultry owners stay alert and be vigilant.  This virus can be carried by wild waterfowl (who do not get sick from it).  The fall migration is underway, so these migratory ducks, geese and other birds have the potential to bring the virus with them anywhere in the country.  It doesn’t mean they will – but they could.   So if you own or handle poultry, it is essential to follow good biosecurity practices at all times.

What is biosecurity?  Biosecurity means taking some simple steps to keep your birds away from germs AND germs away from your birds.   If you follow good biosecurity, you will help ensure your birds remain healthy.  As part of good biosecurity, you should prevent contact between your birds and wild birds, and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials, either through the state veterinarian or through USDA’s toll-free number: 1-866-536-7593.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way from the Summit: How REE is Using New Strategies to Reach Even Newer Poultry Handlers

During a walk along tree-shading sidewalks in the “burbs”; you’re accustomed to seeing games of hopscotch, bike rides, and maybe even the occasional Golden Retriever. However, one residential backyard, nearly 6 miles from downtown Atlanta, calls into question whether this is suburbia at all. There were swings, a tree house, and even patio furniture. Yet one feature certified this was not your mother’s suburban home: over a dozen chickens living comfortably in a custom made “Coop de Ville.”   

The rise of “backyard poultry” is one of many agricultural phenomena tied to a growing food consciousness and increased urbanization. And while USDA’s fundamental job doesn’t change, the Department does because the challenges do.  The recent cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) at increasingly popular backyard chicken coops underscore this. While this concern was not clearly expressed in the 1862 Act of Congress that created the Department, the mandate was. USDA still works to “acquire and to diffuse…information” towards facilitating the protected growth of American agriculture. That service is what brought Research, Education, and Economics Undersecretary Dr. Catherine Woteki to this residence in Decatur, GA. Accompanied by Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service officials and a man known best as the “Chicken Whisperer,” Dr. Woteki toured the site and helped to shed light on current HPAI research and important biosafety measures.

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

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.

Do You Know the Biosecurity Steps to Protect Your Poultry from Avian Influenza? Get Advice From the Experts with #chickenchat2015 on April 16

Since December 2014, USDA has confirmed several cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 in the Pacific, Central, and Mississippi flyways (or migratory bird paths). The disease has been found in wild birds, as well as in a few backyard and commercial poultry flocks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections to be low. No human cases of these HPAI H5 viruses have been detected in the United States, Canada, or internationally.

Anyone who owns or works with poultry—whether on a commercial farm, in the wild, or at a hobby/backyard farm—should take proper steps to keep HPAI from spreading. The best way to protect your birds is to follow good biosecurity. Even if you are already familiar with biosecurity, now is a good time to double-check your practices. You are the best protection your birds have!

Bird Flu Is a Reminder For Back Yard Poultry Owners to Protect Their Birds By Practicing Good Biosecurity

Since December 2014, there have been several highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) confirmations in migratory wild birds, back yard flocks, captive wild birds and commercial poultry in several states along the Pacific, Mississippi and Central Flyways.  These HPAI virus strains can travel in wild birds without them appearing sick.  In fact, if back yard poultry flocks are exposed to these particular HPAI virus strains, they are highly contagious and cause bird death.  We are expecting that there will be more HPAI confirmations this spring as the bird migrations continue, so if you own or handle poultry, now is a great time to check your biosecurity practices.  You should follow good biosecurity at all times to help protect the birds’ health.  Your actions can make a difference!  Learn more here:  http://healthybirds.aphis.usda.gov

As part of good biosecurity, you should prevent contact between your birds and wild birds, and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials, either through the state veterinarian or through USDA’s toll-free number: 1-866-536-7593.  You also should avoid contact with sick/dead poultry or wildlife. If contact occurs, wash your hands with soap and water and change clothing before having any contact with healthy domestic poultry and birds.   You are the best protection your birds have!  Learn more here:  http://healthybirds.aphis.usda.gov

Bird Health Webinar Available Online - Around 300 Bird Enthusiasts Participated Live!

As part of Bird Health Awareness Week, USDA recently hosted a webinar on “Growing Chicks into Healthy Chickens.”  Dr. Martin Smeltzer, Andy Schneider (aka the “Chicken Whisperer”) and Dr. Claudia Dunkley spent an hour helping backyard bird owners learn more about keeping their flocks healthy.  Around 300 people participated in the webinar, most of who are just getting started with backyard birds.

USDA Celebrates Partnership to Prevent and Control Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Africa

In the sub-Saharan nation of Mali, Dr. Boubacar M. Seck is a leader in helping to prevent highly contagious and transmissible animal diseases. As a researcher, Dr. Seck is working with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and local partners to help manage disease risk on farms and to prevent the spread of animal diseases to local and international markets. Dr. Seck’s main accomplishment has been his leadership in developing the West and Central Africa Veterinary Laboratory Network, which studies highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) and other transboundary animal diseases. For his work, USDA recently awarded a certificate of appreciation to Dr. Seck.