Tulare Center Trains UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Students

UC Vet Students Learn About Livestock Animals in Tulare

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

VMRTC is the Veterinarian Medicine Training and Research Center located in Tulare. The facility is an extension of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. The site offers education and training to veterinarians by offering senior veterinary students and residents on-the-farm clinical medical training and residencies in dairy production medicine.

Nathan Brown, a UC Davis veterinary student, is working on practicals in and out of a hospital setting.

“We do rotations in the hospital and outside of the hospital. We have a teaching center and, in addition, we have our California Animal Health and Safety Laboratory System (CAHFS), which is involved with diagnosing foreign animal diseases,” Brown said. “That is sort of the main mission.”

“In the mornings, we do herd checks, we go out to different dairies. We palpate cows for diagnosis of pregnancy, and we’re under the supervision of some of the veterinarians that work at our center,” Brown explained. “In the afternoons, we work on a variety of different projects. One of the projects that we’re working on currently is milking frequency. We are looking at different variables that go into whether or not it’s profitable to move from either two to three times a day or three times a day to two times a day.”

Brown said that the students at the Tulare center are doing their livestock track through UC Davis. “We’re all in our fourth year. It’s been a wonderful experience. Tulare is a great place, and it’s good to see a different part of California.”

Students studying at the center decide which direction they will take regarding animal type or other medical pursuits.

“After our second year, we make a decision about whether we do small animals or large animals,” Brown said. “Some people do equines, other focus on zoo animals—there is a variety of options in our profession and that our school offers.

Brown is pursuing livestock medicine, but he has a commitment to the Air Force to do public health epidemiology for them.

Army veterinarians do clinical medicine for animals on the base. They focus on German shepherd dogs and horses, and they also do some food safety.

“As as a veterinarian in the Air Force, it’s essentially veterinary public health, and my role will be epidemiology on a base, so that’s actually more human focus, and food safety,” Brown said.

“If you kind of think about the historical roots of veterinary medicine, much of the role of veterinarians has been ensuring that food is safe for humans to consume, meaning that the animals are healthy before they get ready for human consumption,” Brown explained. “We must ensure that there’s no points of contamination so that all the food that people eat in this country is healthy and nutritious, and we don’t have to worry about disease.”

Most bases have a veterinary clinic, primarily staffed with army veterinarians.

“My hope is to do some amount of clinical practice at these clinics to sort of keep my veterinary skills relevant. And I’ve had some good advice from some epidemiologists who works at the CDC,” Brown said. “He told me that at least for him, it’s made him a better epidemiologist by keeping his clinical skills relevant because thinking about that differential diagnosis is really a big part of trying to find the cause of a disease.”

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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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)