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.
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.