Extra Vigilance Needed in Delmarva's Chicken Industry

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza in a commercial chicken breeder flock in Lincoln County, Tennessee. Avian influenza among chickens can be a highly contagious, easily spread, industry-threatening, respiratory disease.

What was detected in Tennessee was a North American wild bird lineage virus. The flock of 73,500 birds is located within the Mississippi flyway. This is the first confirmed case of highly pathogenic avian influenza in commercial poultry in the America this year.

Tennessee officials have quarantined the affected premises. The birds on the farm will be depopulated to prevent the spread of the disease, and the birds will not enter the food system.

This Tennessee discovery means all segments of Delmarva's chicken industry need to increase efforts to prevent the introduction of an avian influenza virus into chicken houses. Chicken growers, suppliers of products and services, and all others in Delmarva's chicken industry have a role to play.

It is each grower's responsibility to prevent the introduction of the potentially deadly virus into chicken houses. Growers are the first line of defense and each grower should examine his/her biosecurity plans and make sure adequate steps are in place now to prevent an avian influenza episode. Growers should not count on others to protect their farms and their families' financial futures.

Growers should:
  • Limit visitors on chicken farms and minimize foot traffic, especially in the chicken houses.
  • Block driveways and lock chicken house doors to discourage or prevent visitors
  • Avoid contact with wild and domestic fowl
  • Tighten chicken houses to keep free flying birds out of the houses
  • Avoid the sharing of farm equipment and farm personnel
  • Have a clean and functioning footbath at each entrance to the chicken house
  • Ensure that all visitors or personnel have disinfected footwear or new footwear before entering a house
  • Change clothes and footwear after visiting community gathering sites where other growers might congregate
  • Have chicken house-only footwear, one pair for each house
  • Keep a visitors' log to record who has been on the farm and when
  • Make sure feed and water sources are covered and free of contaminants, limiting the attraction of wild fowl and pests
  • Post signs to discourage and/or prevent unnecessary visitors
  • Employ effective pest and wild bird management practices
  • Keep four-legged creatures out of houses
  • Adequately train whomever has access to the farm and chicken houses, including family members, on biosecurity and disease prevention
  • Avoid entering the houses after hunting without first cleaning and changing clothes and footwear
  • Avoid all contact with ducks and geese and other wild waterfowl. They are known carriers of the virus.
  • Make sure necessary visitors such as delivery and repair personnel are practicing good biosecurity that might include wearing disposable footwear and clothing. If they are not meeting growers' expectations, they should be kept off of chicken farms.

Without adequate biosecurity plans in place, growers and others in the chicken industry might suffer severe financial hardship if avian influenza is detected a Delmarva farm.

It is up to Delmarva's chicken growers to protect their investments. Growers cannot leave it up to others.

Further information on biosecurity measures can be found on this U.S. Department of Agriculture website: www.aphis.usda.gov/animalhealth/defendtheflock

Defend the Flock

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