US - New York State agencies have held an emergency planning meeting to ensure they are prepared to work together in the event of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) arriving in the state.
To date, the rapidly expanding viral outbreak has already affected approximately 48 million birds in the Midwest and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has confirmed that the current outbreak is the worst in US history.
According to the USDA, 10 per cent of the egg-laying hens in the US have already been lost, as well as over 6 per cent of the nation's live turkey inventory. Avian flu has not been found in poultry flocks in New York State or in neighbouring states, though it has been found in two flocks in the Canadian province of Ontario.
New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets was joined at the meeting by representatives from the Department of Health, Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Mental Health, Department of Transportation, the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Division of Military and Naval Affairs, New York State Police and the United States Department of Agriculture.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “We recognise the serious threat this disease poses to the livelihoods of farms in New York and have been exercising every bit of caution to minimize the incidence of avian influenza in our state’s poultry population.
"Our best line of defence is a quick response and emergency planning is important to make sure New York is coordinated and ready to respond on all fronts in case avian influenza is detected in New York State.”
As part of the tabletop exercise, the Department of Agriculture and Markets presented potential scenarios should an avian influenza case be detected in a poultry flock in the state. Participating agencies discussed various aspects of their response plan, including their on-the-ground activation and public awareness plan.
Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner John P. Melville said, “It is vitally important to prepare for “worst case scenarios” before the actual threat is real. Through exercises like this one, we have the ability to mitigate the effects of avian flu in New York State.
"Planning and collaboration between key response agencies will lessen the effects of an outbreak and ensure that New York State is fully prepared if the virus impacts the state.”
“New Yorkers should understand that avian influenza poses little threat to humans as long as people practice good hygiene and properly cook their poultry,” said New York State Health Commissioner Dr Howard Zucker. “Even so, we need to be prepared. This exercise helps ensure that New York has a strong defense against this disease in the event it appears in our state.”
With a total domestic poultry population of about 7.5 million birds, New York’s poultry industry generates roughly $150 million in sales annually.
The Department of Agriculture and Markets has implemented several recent, proactive measures to restrict the movement of poultry into the state. The regulations require that all live poultry moved into New York must be:
- From a source flock in which 30 birds were tested for avian influenza within ten days prior to entry into New York State; or
- From a source flock that has been certified by the state of origin as an Avian Influenza Monitored Flock; or
- From a source flock certified as clean of HPAI under the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP).
In addition, all hatching eggs and day-old chicks imported into New York must be from a source flock certified as clean of HPAI under the NPIP. The Department has also banned fowl exhibits at the New York State Fair, all county fairs held in the state, and all chartered youth fairs.
"The last reported case of HPAI was June 17 and it appears that the virus may be slowing down, but we must remain vigilant and do what we can now to prepare,” said New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Veterinarian Dr Smith.
“Our producers understand the importance of the proactive measures we have implemented and have been hugely responsive to our efforts to minimise HPAI’s spread. This emergency response meeting will help ensure the state is ready to respond in a real life event.”
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