Avian Flu Risk is High

Protect Poultry from Avian Flu 

University of California poultry experts are urging poultry owners to examine biosecurity for their flocks after avian influenza was confirmed in commercial chickens in Tennessee by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on March 5. To protect the birds’ health, UC scientists recommend taking measures to prevent poultry from coming into contact with wild birds.

“Based on the initial sequence of the virus, the source of the virus is thought to be waterfowl,” said Maurice Pitesky, UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist in the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis. “This is consistent with the current understanding of how avian influenza spreads and evolves. Specifically, juveniles are infected at breeding locations and travel south in the fall carrying virus. As the waterfowl move southward, they are more likely to interact with other species, increasing the risk of interspecies transmission and formation of new varieties of avian influenza.”

The case in Lincoln County, Tenn., is the first report of highly pathogenic H7 avian influenza in commercial poultry in the United States this year. The flock of 73,500 affected chickens is located within the Mississippi Flyway, one of four North American flyways for migratory birds.

“Lincoln County is located in one of the medium-high risk areas that were identified by our risk map, said Beatriz Martínez López, director of the Center for Animal Disease Modeling and Surveillance in the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis.

The UC Agriculture and Natural Resources researcher, who studies risk factors for the spread of avian influenza, noted that California is within atthe Pacific Flyway.

“We need to increase awareness of poultry producers to maximize the biosecurity implemented in their operations, particularly in those located in high-risk areas, mainly farms that are in close proximity to wetlands or other wild bird feeding and resting areas,” Martínez López said.

Poultry owners can identify biosecurity strengths and weaknesses for their own farm or backyard flock by filling out a free survey designed by Martínez López and other poultry experts. People who raise chickens, quail, ducks, turkeys, geese or other birds anywhere in the United States are invited to use the resource. At the end of the survey, participants receive specific research-based recommendations of biosecurity measures they can apply on their own types of farms. The poultry biosecurity survey is available in English  http://bit.ly/2kkMycf and Spanish http://bit.ly/2mjO13G. The survey takes 15 to 20 minutes to complete and will be open until June 1.

If you would like UC Cooperative Extension to notify you if there is an avian influenza outbreak in your area, sign up on the California Poultry Census page: http://ucanr.edu/sites/poultry/California_Poultry_Census.

Owners of backyard chickens who observe illness or increased mortality among their birds should call their veterinarian or the California Department of Food Agriculture sick bird hotline at (866) 922-BIRD (2473).

For more information about raising poultry, visit http://ucanr.edu/sites/poultry.

Avian Influenza

Waterfowl  Migration Flyways Have Poultry Industry on Guard

By Brian German, Associate Editor

We are at the peak of migrating bird traffic flying north to south, and poultry operations throughout California and the rest of the country are looking skyward with dread. The industry aims to detect all flyways as migrating birds are suspected of spreading Asian Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) A (H5N1) virus that devastated the poultry business last year throughout the Midwest with some lesser problems in California. In fact, more than 48 million birds, primarily turkeys and laying hens, were infected and had to be depopulated last year throughout the Midwest.

“These global flyways waterfowl use to move north and south and back again every year are basically like freeways,” said Maurice Pitesky, a Veterinarian and UC Cooperative Extension assistant specialist and UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine lecturer in Population Health & Reproduction. “And in those freeway lanes,” he continued, “different birds interface with each other. We have a Pacific flyway that covers California, which can interface with the East Asia and Australian flyways. If you look at the genetics found in North America, especially in California, the genetics match some of the HPAI found in South Korea.”

Locating birds in flyways can alert poultry operations to implement immediate measures to prevent potential HPAI spreading on anything on the outside or inside of the poultry house.

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Feral Swine Also a Problem

Pitesky noted a great abundance of feral swine in California, and the geographical extent is poorly understood. “But what we do know with respect to influenza is that although feral swine, and swine in general, are unique species, influenza viruses from humans and influenza viruses from birds can infect swine. That represents one of the ways we get new strains of Avian Influenza that could adversely affect all animals, including birds and potentially humans,” he noted.

Of course, poultry HPAI is not a problem for humans. Pitesky noted, “When people say ‘highly pathogenic,’ it has nothing to do with whether humans get it or not. The ‘highly pathogenic’ label is specifically for birds in that it makes birds sick. There is no evidence any of those strains we found in North America are zoonotic, meaning able to infect humans, at this point,” he said.

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BioSecurityforBirds
(Source: USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Bio Security for Birds)

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Biosecurity Explained – 6 Simple Steps

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) wants to help poultry owners keep their birds healthy by practicing biosecurity to reduce the chances exposure to animal diseases such as avian influenza (AI) or exotic Newcastle disease (END).

APHIS advises the following consistent daily biosecurity practices:

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The USDA’s Fall 2015 HPAI Preparedness and Response Plan to preventing and responding to future HPAI cases, in collaboration with industry and State partners, includes:

 Promoting improved on-farm biosecurity practices in order to prevent future HPAI cases to the greatest extent possible

 Improving HPAI surveillance in wild birds as a means to provide “early warning” risk information to States and industry

 Expanding Federal, State and industry response capabilities, including availability of personnel, equipment, and depopulation, disposal and recovery options

 Improving USDA’s capabilities to rapidly detect HPAI in domestic poultry and to depopulate affected flocks within 24 hours to reduce the environmental load of HPAI viruses and their subsequent spread

 Streamlining the processes for payment of indemnity and the cost of eliminating viruses so that producers receive a fair amount quickly, to assist them in returning to production

 Enhancing our ability to communicate in a timely and effective way with producers, consumers, legislators, media, and others regarding outbreaks and other information

 Making preparations to identify and deploy effective AI vaccines should they be a cost beneficial addition to the eradication efforts in a future HPAI outbreak.

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Resources:

UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine 

2015 Avian Influenza News (Bird Flu)

California Animal Health and Food Safety (CAHFS) Laboratory System

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CDFA

Poultry Facility Biosecurity Risk Assessment Guide: “We will always be one step ahead.”

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) outbreak in the United States

Avian Entry Requirements into California Update

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USDA

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

2015 Avian Influenza News 

Avian Influenza Disease

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Avian Influenza Mapping Plan to Prevent CA Outbreaks

High Pathogenic Avian Influenza Mapping Plan (HPAI) to Prevent Outbreaks in California

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

In 2014 and 2015, the outbreak of High Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) caused unprecedented damage to the mid-western commercial poultry industry, requiring the depopulation of 48 million birds, particularly turkeys and laying hens. There were isolated cases in last autumn in California as well. Migrating birds, generally considered to be the source of HPAI, move throughout the state in their flyways this time of year.

USDA Pacific Flyway Map
USDA Pacific Flyway Map

Maurice Pitesky, a UC Cooperative Extension population health & reproduction assistant specialist with an appointment in poultry health and food safety, emphasized the importance of the flyways, “These global flyways that waterfowl use to move north and south and back again every single year are like freeways. And in those freeway lanes, different birds interface with each other.  So, we might have a Pacific flyway that covers California, but that Pacific flyway can interface with the East Asian and Australian flyway in the Northern Arctic. If you look at the genetics of the strains that were found in North America, especially in California, the genetics match some of the HPAI found in South Korea for example,” Pitesky said.

The Avian Influenza Mapping Plan is like overlaying maps of birds’ flying patterns for an early warning system for commercial operations. Pitesky observed, “We’re really just scratching the surface in how we can utilize maps with respect to surveillance and risk-mapping. For example, if I can locate on a map, where waterfowl, flooded rice fields, or wet fields are, and I can also determine where commercial poultry operations are, then I can start understanding which operations are at highest risk.”

I can triage my focus, outreach, and biosecurity efforts to those farms that are most closely located.

“New techniques are available so our national network of weather radar can actually be leveraged, and that data can be utilized remotely to understand in real time where waterfowl are hanging out. Eventually we can use that information to warn farmers in real time if there are migrating waterfowl near their farm,” he said.

California Chickens at Increased Risk for Severe Bird Flu Strain

UC Davis experts are urging backyard chicken enthusiasts and commercial poultry owners to practice strong biosecurity measures to prevent contact with wild birds, due to highly pathogenic strains of avian influenza or “bird flu” recently detected in migratory waterfowl in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and Butte County, California.

The current detected strains, H5N2 and H5N8, are not a risk to human health and have not been found in commercial poultry in the United States. However, commercial poultry flocks in British Columbia and backyard flocks in Washington and Oregon have been affected.OneCalifornia

Avian influenza — commonly called “bird flu” — is a disease found in a wide variety of domesticated and wild birds. Once introduced into an area, infection can spread through bird-to-bird contact or through contact with contaminated clothing, shoes, hands, feed, water or equipment. Because waterfowl are reservoirs for avian influenza strains that can be fatal to domestic poultry (yet often show little to no signs in waterfowl), backyard and commercial chickens raised near areas commonly used by migrating waterfowl are at risk of transmission.

“Due to normal waterfowl migration along the Pacific Flyway, during the winter there are approximately eight times the number of waterfowl in California than what we will see three months from now,” said Maurice Pitesky, a poultry specialist with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “There are lots of birds that winter and establish roosting and feeding habitat in California wetlands and agricultural crops. If you are a poultry owner — either backyard or commercial — and live in proximity to waterfowl and their habitat, your birds are at risk.”

Owners of backyard chickens who observe illness or increased mortality in their birds should call their veterinarian or the California Department of Food Agriculture sick bird hotline at (866) 922-2473.

The California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System includes four diagnostic labs in Davis, Turlock, Tulare and San Bernardino. The labs encourage veterinarians and owners of backyard chickens to submit sick or recently dead birds for necropsy (postmortem) examination. The exam is free of charge for California backyard flock owners of fewer than 1,000 birds (chicken, turkey, waterfowl and squabs). For more information, contact (530) 752-8700 or visit the CAFHS website.

Reduce the risk of bird flu

To reduce the risk of avian influenza transmission, chickens should be kept separate from wild birds and monitored for signs of illness or increased mortality. The CDFA also urges owners to take the following necessary and crucial precautions:

  • If you have a pond or body of water that can attract waterfowl to or near your facility, consider draining if feasible.
  • Provide housing to confine domestic poultry and/or enclose an exercise area with netting.
  • Avoid use of water that comes from sources where waterfowl may congregate during migration.
  • Ideally, owners of poultry should try to avoid waterfowl hunting during migration. Otherwise, ensure clothing, footwear, vehicles, etc. used during hunts are laundered and/or disinfected.
  • Permit only essential workers and vehicles on premises and provide disposable coveralls, boots and head coverings for visitors.
  • Clean and disinfect vehicles and equipment entering or leaving the premises.
  • Control movement associated with the disposal of mortality, litter and manure.

Additional resources

Information on good biosecurity and hygiene precautions to keep backyard flocks healthy can be found at:

Reports of dead, wild birds can be directed to the Wildlife Investigations Lab at (916) 358-2790. There is also a Web application for submission.

CAHFS at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine

The California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System is the backbone of California’s warning system helping to protect the health of the state’s livestock and poultry. Operated through the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, CAHFS provides appropriate and timely diagnostic support to safeguard the health of California’s dairy, livestock and poultry industries and to protect the public health from animal disease.

 

(Photo credit: UC Davis)