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An increasing number of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) detections in the United States has prompted Texas A&M AgriLife scientists to warn commercial and backyard producers across the state.
On February 14, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or APHIS, of the United States Department of Agriculture confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza in birds in two states – a flock of commercial broiler chickens in Fulton County, Kentucky, and a backyard flock of mixed-species birds in Fauquier County, Virginia. The highly pathogenic avian influenza was found in both flocks. Avian flu pathogens have been discovered in seven states, including Kentucky, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Indiana, and Maryland, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
When it comes to joint incident response, APHIS is collaborating closely with state animal health authorities in both Kentucky and Virginia. A quarantine has been placed around the afflicted homes, and the birds on the grounds will be depopulated in order to prevent the spread of the illness.
Those outbreaks followed an earlier discovery of avian influenza at a turkey facility in Indiana on Feb. 9, which prompted further investigation. On Feb. 16, another case of spread was detected at a different turkey farm in Indiana, this time at a different location. Wild ducks in Maryland were the subject of a positive detection.
Humans are not at risk from avian flu, but poultry farmers should be on the lookout.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, these avian influenza detections do not pose a significant threat to public health at this time. There have been no confirmed human instances of these avian influenza viruses in the United States.
The outbreaks of a highly dangerous avian flu disease, according to Tom Hairgrove, DVM, Ph.D., professor and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service veterinary expert in Bryan-College Station, are a cause for concern for commercial and backyard poultry farmers, he added.
While commercial producers are familiar with the routine and may need to be a bit more cautious of their operations and biosecurity controls, the backyard producer is a true source of worry since there is greater danger in such flocks, according to the expert. They must use extreme caution in their activities and contacts with wild birds, as well as in quarantining new birds before introducing them to the flock. Furthermore, they must notify AgriLife Extension personnel or the Texas Animal Health Commission immediately if an animal dies suddenly.”
Animal Health Alerts were issued by the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) in order to encourage poultry and fowl owners to improve biosecurity in order to protect their flocks against highly dangerous avian influenza.
The Texas Animal Health Commission is actively following the 2022 HPAI scenario and is focussing on collaborating with other agencies to communicate information about the illness and preventative strategies now before the avian flu makes it’s way any closer to the state of Texas in the future. In addition to the poultry health homepage, animal health alerts, and social media, TAHC also has a Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram account.
Producers should strengthen biosecurity procedures in order to prevent the spread of disease. Producers may use APHIS biosecurity products, like videos, checklists, and a toolkit, to assist lower the risk of infection in their flocks by following the recommendations in the toolkit.
According to Hairgrove, some fundamental guidelines for backyard biosecurity are as follows:
- Improving the security of poultry buildings to prevent infiltration by wild birds, pets, and animals.
- Visitors should be kept away from homes and coops, particularly if they have not been well disinfected.
- Making appropriate apparel and shoes or rubber boots available for use only in chicken houses is a good idea.
- Preparing and sanitizing any common equipment, including as scales, feeds, and water dispensers.
- Rodent and insect control strategies are being implemented.
Incorporating bird species obtained from disease-free sources into the breeding program.
According to Hairgrove, the positive test in waterfowl in Maryland should serve as a reminder to backyard farmers to prevent interaction with wild birds in their fields.
In his words, “any form of handling of wild birds by producers or their children increases the risk of transferring this illness to a domestic flock.” “It is also conceivable for them to carry the infection on their clothing or shoes, so they must exercise extreme caution and adhere to rigorous biosecurity standards, particularly given the kind of avian flu that is now prevalent and the volume of bird migration that occurs at this time of year.”
Testing is carried out at the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory.
Television Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) is a member of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network and is capable of testing for avian influenza viruses utilizing quick molecular tests that have been authorized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Veterinary microbiologist Kiril Dimitrov, DVM, Ph.D., assistant agency director for microbiology and research at TVMDL in Bryan-College Station, stated that the USDA and state officials are well-versed in exercises to manage avian flu and are trying to contain it as they have in past years.
As part of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s wild bird monitoring for avian influenza in the Mississippi and Central Flyways, Dimitrov said that TVMDL has been conducting tests in the Mississippi and Central Flyways. He said that, as Hairgrove previously stated, backyard flocks are very essential, and flock owners must keep up to current on the latest developments in the field as well as the biosecurity protocols in place on their property.