Avian Influenza and Commercial Flocks

Agricultural Disaster Preparedness and Recovery September 30, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

commercial poultryPhoto taken by the Chesapeake Bay Program. This image has been altered from it's original form

Most commercial flocks, such as those in the United States and Canada, are raised in enclosed housing to prevent contact with wild birds that may carry diseases. Strict biosecurity measures limit exposure to all sources. Domestic flocks raised on range or in open flight pens may become exposed to fecal contamination from infected wild birds and should be protected.

Commercial flocks are under continuous surveillance for the presence of any disease. Highly pathogenic avian influenza can cause serious illness and death in chickens and turkeys. Layer flocks infected with avian influenza may experience a drop in egg production. This indicator is often enough to alert farmers of a disease problem. Producers should report any sign of widespread illness, death, or reduced egg production to animal health specialists.

In many countries, including the United States, outbreaks caused by H5 and H7 strains of avian influenza, even in their low pathogenic forms, are reportable. If these avian influenza strains are found in flocks, government veterinarians must immediately quarantine the farm and, when appropriate, euthanize and properly dispose of the birds. The housing facilities must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected and the area carefully monitored afterward to ensure that the virus has been eliminated. Most states have a compensation policy and may access additional federal funds in the event of catastrophic poultry disease outbreaks.

The United States' poultry industry, in cooperation with the USDA, has adopted a voluntary testing program for avian influenza prior to slaughter under the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP). The voluntary testing program strives to prevent infected poultry from entering the food chain. Animal health officials are also working cooperatively with the poultry industry to conduct avian influenza surveillance and testing at breeding flock farms, slaughter plants, live-bird markets, livestock auctions, and poultry dealer sites.




Avian Influenza Homepage

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.