Photo by: Stephen Ausmus
The United States is the world’s largest producer and exporter of poultry meat and the second-largest egg producer. The total U.S. poultry industry is valued at $29 billion a year. Several U.S. government agencies, such as the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Homeland Security (DHS), the Interior (DOI), and Health and Human Services (HHS), are part of a global surveillance and enforcement network aimed at keeping contagious diseases, such as highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) out of the United States.
As a primary safeguard against the introduction of HPAI H5N1 into the United States, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) maintains trade restrictions on poultry and poultry products from affected countries. In many of these countries, APHIS already had poultry import restrictions in place because they were also known to have exotic Newcastle disease (END). These restrictions include the following.
USDA conducts several domestic programs to survey and prevent avian influenza. Surveillance is conducted in four key areas: live bird markets, commercial flocks, backyard flocks, and migratory bird populations. Extensive testing occurs in live bird markets and commercial flocks for H5 and H7 low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) to prevent the possible mutation of LPAI into HPAI viral strains. In 2006, the U.S. commercial poultry industry started a voluntary program to test each flock on the farm before it is sent to slaughter. Flocks testing positive for either the H5 or H7 subtype will most likely be depopulated and disposed of in a safe and humane manner subject to USDA evaluation. Also in 2006, USDA increased surveillance of wild birds to rapidly detect and prevent the spread of any HPAI viral strains to domestic poultry by monitoring U.S. bird populations. USDA and the DOI are collecting and testing at least 125,000 samples from wild birds or their immediate environment (in all four major flyways in the United States) for the presence of avian influenza viruses, specifically HPAI H5N1.
USDA is working closely with international organizations such the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) to assist HPAI-affected countries with disease prevention, management, and eradication activities. By helping these countries control HPAI (H5N1) outbreaks, USDA-APHIS can reduce the risk of the disease spreading from overseas to the United States.