New biosecurity measures enacted to help prevent avian influenza

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Poultry farmers across Iowa had to destroy millions of birds, lost months of production and were impacted financially due to the avian influenza last year.

This year, they plan on being better prepared.

New biosecurity measures were implemented this year to prevent another outbreak. Avian influenza infected more than 48 million birds in 21 states in 2015.

"All we can do is reduce a risk of an outbreak of the influenza," Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey said. "We know that all these things may still not be enough to stop an outbreak. We want to find and prevent it as quick as we can and minimize the spread of the disease as much as we can. Being successful doesn't mean that we are going to stop any case from happening."

All poultry farms now need to have a biosecurity plan to qualify for USDA indemnification, according to Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

The Center for Food Security and Public Health and Iowa State University, College of Veterinary Medicine developed the new plan. It ranges from ways to dispose of dead birds to measures to prevent infection.

Northey said it is recommended that livestock houses have an official identification number. These numbers may be obtained at no charge by contacting the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

Northey encourages producers to be aggressive in surveillance of their birds. He said not to wait to report a bird displaying any symptoms of the influenza. Any bird infected must be removed within 24 hours to reduce the overall impact of the virus on the flock or on neighbor farms.

Avian influenza symptoms can include poor egg production and loss of feathers, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"There has been a significant investment by producers in trying to minimize the disease," Northey said. "We get folks now that call when they have a few birds that are sick or have died overnight and they want to get a test done now to see whether it was avian influenza or not. That's a very important improvement of people being not as nervous about it going into it last year."

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service have participated in reviews to evaluate last year's response and identify areas for improvement as well.

Meetings with individual livestock groups about animal health emergency planning and updating the statewide foreign animal disease plan will also take place in the near future.

The USDA has appointed staffers to the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Poultry Federation to advise producers on new biosecurity measures.

"They will talk to producers about what would happen," Northey said. "Say you get a positive test back. Who are you going to get a phone call from? What's next? Who's coming on your farm? They have extensive conversations so people aren't surprised by any of that and they know what to expect next."

Northey said the type of influenza, HFN2, that caused the outbreak has been dormant so far this year. He added that the virus may have mutated, so producers still need to be diligent.

"We are not seeing avian influenza either in Iowa or other Midwestern states," Northey said. "Maybe part of that is better biosecurity. We are not the wild bird populations that are infected, so maybe the virus that came last year isn't out there. But we certainly know, after last year, that it can happen. It come again in a different way."

Northey believes that Iowa has rebounded well from the outbreak in 2015, but said that many farmers are still not fully recovered.

"We lost about half of the population of egg-laying hens in Iowa," Northey said. "Iowa is the number one state in layers, about 60 million layers. We lost 30 million of those layers last year. We are now back around 50 million layers. We are not back to full capacity but close.

"Of the 71 farmers and the six backyard flocks that were affected by the influenza, I'm sure most are not back totally financially. They are back to earning income again, but they will have a lot of make up to from the losses that they had last year."


* A line of separation should be established to isolate poultry from potential source birds infected with the influenza. 

* Create a perimeter area, set up around the poultry houses to keep vehicles and equipment which have not been cleaned and disinfected and personnel not following biosecurity entry protocols from contaminating areas near the poultry houses.

* Dead birds should be disposed of in a manner that prevents the attraction of wild birds, rodents and other animals. Additionally, avoid the potential for cross-contamination with birds from other facilities.

* Manure and spent litter should be removed in a manner to prevent exposure of susceptible poultry to the influenza virus.

* Pests, such as wild birds, rodents and insects, should be kept out of housing sites.

* Farmers should follow proper cleaning and disinfection protocol for

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