US - Veterinarians have been encouraging poultry producers and enthusiasts to prepare for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), expected to affect the East Coast in autumn of 2015 or spring of 2016.
Vermont State Veterinarian, Dr Kristin Haas, warned all poultry producers in the state to get ready.
Since December 2014, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has confirmed the presence of HPAI on more than 200 properties, impacting almost 50 million commercial and backyard birds.
While the HPAI outbreak has not yet been identified in Vermont, Dr Haas said that poultry producers should be familiar with the disease, how it is spread, and preparedness efforts that they can engage in now.
The HPAI H5 virus is most commonly spread to domestic poultry by infected waterfowl, through direct contact or contact with their droppings. While waterfowl can carry the disease without becoming sick, the HPAI H5 virus is generally fatal for domestic poultry.
"Domestic poultry are highly susceptible to HPAI H5 virus, which can spread rapidly from bird to bird and typically results in high mortality rates," said Dr Haas.
"All poultry owners, whether they are backyard hobbyists or commercial producers, should evaluate their farms for risk factors that could contribute to avian influenza occurring on their farms."
Risk factors include:
- Poultry housed outside
- Ponds or other water fowl attractants on the farm
- Piles of debris located close to poultry areas
- Introduction of poultry from other farms without a quarantine period
- Lack of personal protective equipment such as dedicated coveralls and boots
- Sharing of equipment between farms.
Dr Haas' statement outlined many preventative measures that poultry owners could take, many of which were specific to the state of Vermont, which you can read here.
All bird owners, whether commercial producers or backyard enthusiasts, are encouraged to practice good biosecurity, prevent contact between their birds and wild birds, and to report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials.
It is important to note that The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk to people from this HPAI infection to be low. No human cases of this HPAI virus have been detected in the United States or internationally. Influenza in poultry does not constitute a food safety risk.
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