Cobb Statement on Avian Influenza

US - Due to the worldwide focus and attention on avian influenza, also known as "bird flu", we would like to assure you of Cobb-Vantress, Inc.’s current preventative bird health programs and activities.
calendar icon 17 August 2006
clock icon 11 minute read

These programs and activities include: strict biosecurity measures, transmissible disease surveillance, strategically geographic distinct locations of genetic stock, and emergency disease preparedness.

Biosecurity is a major priority for our company. We maintain the strictest biosecurity measures to prevent the introduction of transmissible poultry diseases, including Avian Influenza, into our production facilities. These measures incorporate dynamic training of all company employees, physical isolation of farms, specially designed poultry housing, and entry guidelines.

All of Cobb-Vantress’ pedigree, great-grandparent, and grandparent operations worldwide participate in active surveillance programs for transmissible poultry diseases including all types of Avian Influenza. These ongoing testing programs have been in place for many years, and they help to guarantee a supply of safe and high quality genetic stock to all customers.

As a global supplier of broiler breeder genetics, we feel it is of utmost importance that we can continue supplying our customers with broiler breeding stock in the event of a catastrophic disease outbreak, such as Avian Influenza, that affects trade. For this reason, we have strategically placed genetic stock in multiple locations around the world so that an uninterrupted supply can be achieved under most circumstances.

Cobb-Vantress aggressively participates in local, national and international emergency disease preparedness programs to pledge support and leadership for the rapid containment, quarantine and control of poultry diseases. In the event a notifiable disease, such as Avian Influenza, was detected in a flock, we would immediately respond and work cooperatively with federal, state and local government authorities to fully comply with all regulations.

We hope that the following questions and answers will further assure you of Cobb-Vantress’ commitment to biosecurity, health, quality, and continuous supply of genetic stock. Additionally, we hope that this information will serve as valuable reference material and factual data to reassure employees and customers.

Questions and Answers on Avian Influenza “Bird Flu”

Q. What is “bird flu?”

A. “Bird flu” is the common name for avian influenza, a respiratory disease of birds that is caused by a virus. There are several different types of avian influenza present worldwide. The milder forms, known as Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza or LPAI, may not cause clinical illness in birds, and may go undetected if active surveillance programs are not in place. The more serious form, known as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), causes severe disease in birds, and often results in high mortality in commercial poultry flocks. Occasionally, a LPAI virus (historically, only H5 or H7 viruses) can mutate and become HPAI virus. Thus, the active disease testing surveillance program required by Cobb-Vantress ensures that our birds are free of all types of Avian Influenza.

Q. Are all types of avian influenza equally dangerous to birds and humans?

A. Only the H5 and H7 types are known to be able to mutate from the low-pathogenic form to the highly pathogenic form, so these are the virus subtypes of greatest concern. Active serological surveillance will confirm if any disease is present in birds, and will therefore help prevent any potential risk of transmission to other birds, animals and humans. The disease preparedness action plans instituted by Cobb-Vantress are designed to prevent the entry of any type of virus into our flocks. At this time, the H5N1 Avian Influenza virus presents the greatest concern for bird infection and potential risk of bird to human transmission and infection. This virus has not been found in North and South America to date. However, in other parts of the world (more notably Asia), humans have acquired infections with the H5N1 Avian Influenza virus in extremely rare cases. These very limited number of human cases linked to the H5N1 avian influenza virus have resulted from very close contact with infected birds or from cases in which preventative safety precautions were not followed.

Q. Can humans get avian influenza from other humans?

A. Scientists say that the HPAI virus has not yet developed the ability to pass from human to human.

Q. What is the value of annual vaccination against human influenza?

A. Cobb-Vantress, Inc. encourages their team members to receive the standard flu vaccination in their local area. This human influenza vaccination provides no protection against the H5N1 avian strain. However, scientists believe that while the human influenza vaccine provides some protection against human flu viruses, it may also reduce the theoretical combination of H5N1 avian virus with a human flu virus. Combination of human and avian virus types could possibly generate a mutant strain of the H5N1 virus that can be transmitted from human to human. There currently is no commercially available vaccine to protect humans against the H5N1 avian virus.

Q. What is Cobb doing to protect all flocks from disease?

A. Biosecurity is a major priority for our company. Cobb-Vantress, Inc. biosecurity protocols include: mandatory biosecurity contract, integrated pest management, restricted visitor and employee access to all poultry facilities (personnel, equipment and vehicular traffic), showers and company approved clothing and foot wear, hand and shoe disinfection, and travel restrictions based on poultry contact. In addition, all birds are housed in modern, enclosed facilities which prevent contact with wild birds, free-roaming domestic birds, and other potential carriers of disease. We work to educate our neighbors keeping poultry of the dangers of mixing poultry species and especially interaction with wild waterfowl. We encourage free range bird producers to utilize diagnostic monitoring laboratories to assure the health and well being of their poultry.

Q. How is Cobb prepared to respond to a disease outbreak?

A. At Cobb-Vantress, Inc., we are morally and ethically committed to fully prevent, diagnose and report all notifiable poultry diseases. Our company’s reputation is evidence of this strong commitment. We have developed contingency plans and viable partnerships with government authorities and industry partners to address these issues in the event that they occur in a local production area or on a company facility. For example, containment will be accomplished by quarantine of the infected area, destruction of the infected flocks, and strict control of all area personnel, equipment, and animals within the compartmentalized zone.

Q. What happens when there is an outbreak of notifiable AI in the United States?

A. The policy of the poultry industry and the US government is to eradicate the disease as quickly as possible by destroying any flocks in which the H5 or H7 types of virus are found. The animals are all destroyed and disposed of in accordance with local government regulations. The National Chicken Council (NCC) and the USDA National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP), in which Cobb is an active participant, encourages all poultry companies to continuously conduct surveillance for AI. All Cobb flocks in the US undergo continuous required serological testing and are certified “AI Clean” by the NPIP program. The “NPIP AI Clean” program began in the USA and at Cobb in 1998. In one year (from July 1, 2004 through June 30, 2005), Cobb completed over 45,000 serological monitoring tests in the USA alone to comply with the NPIP AI Clean program. An additional 35,000 tests were done to meet International Export testing requirements. At Cobb, all birds in production are sampled on an every-three-week-basis to test for the absence of AI and other transmissible diseases of concern to our Industry. The same stringent testing protocols are applied to all Cobb locations around the world with genetic stock.

Q. Why is it necessary to destroy all the birds in an infected flock?

A. Flocks are destroyed to prevent the virus from spreading or evolving into a more pathogenic form. Cobb’s worldwide ongoing surveillance procedures, in combination with biosecurity programs, help prevent the entrance and spread of the disease that potentially can lead to the destruction of infected flocks.

Q. Can you get any type of avian influenza by eating chicken, turkey or other poultry products?

A. There is no danger of getting avian influenza from properly cooked poultry. The avian influenza virus is killed by the heat of normal cooking. As a reminder, always cook all poultry and poultry products (including eggs) thoroughly before eating. This means that chicken should be cooked until it reaches a temperature of 180°F (82°C), throughout each piece of chicken. When preparing raw poultry products, always use hygienic handling procedures. Additionally, all utensils and surfaces (including hands) that come in contact with raw poultry should be cleaned carefully with water and soap immediately afterwards. It is strongly recommended that you wash your hands after handling raw poultry.

Q. In recent years, where have cases of avian influenza been reported in the world?

A. Avian influenza is a naturally occurring virus in wild birds, waterfowl, and some species of migratory birds. Due to the natural phenomena, avian influenza has been detected in a myriad of countries worldwide. Notifiable avian influenza (H5 or H7 virus types), has been reported in Asia, North America, Europe, Africa, Australia and South America in the past 8 years. In summary, we highly recommend that all poultry producers and worldwide governments develop and implement similar surveillance and biosecurity programs, like those required by Cobb, in an effort to prevent the introduction of this virus into commercial poultry operations. Through this type of cooperative effort, the potential threat and spread of HPAI virus, the concern for human health risk, and the economic devastation can be minimized.

Q. What can you and your government do to help facilitate the movement/importation of genetic stock from Cobb-Vantress in the event of a case of notifiable (H5 or H7) avian influenza in a country where we raise genetic foundation stock?

A. Cobb-Vantress, Inc. genetic stock are located in the United States, Brazil, and Europe. These areas were strategically chosen to achieve uninterrupted supply under most circumstances. We realize the importance of continuous supply of genetic stock for the well-being and viability of poultry production in your individual country and your poultry business. Therefore, it is necessary to proactively discuss four major procedures that may help to prevent the interruption of genetic stock supply, principally day-old chicks and hatching eggs. The following steps are highly recommended to assist with these measures:

  • Compartmentalization of infected zone: The OIE (World Animal Health Organization) defines a compartment as ”one or more establishments under a common biosecurity management system containing an animal subpopulation with a distinct health status with respect to a specific disease or specific diseases for which required surveillance, control and biosecurity measures have been applied for the purpose of international trade.” Due to the unique design and certified health status of the Cobb-Vantress production units, each farm and hatchery would meet this OIE definition for a compartment. In the event of the diagnosis of a disease outbreak in a country where we have genetic stock, we depend on you and your government to enforce this OIE definition. With your help, the AI Clean status of our product, breeding establishment and hatchery will be recognized, and importation will not be delayed or denied.

  • Approved biosecurity standards and ability to quarantine import product: To further aid the importation of genetic stock, it is important to work with your ministry of agriculture to obtain pre-approval for the entry of day-old poultry and/or hatching eggs. By obtaining pre-approval to receive and quarantine imported product, special dispensation may be granted to permit the completion of importation from an infected country. Quarantine of your hatchery (for hatching eggs) or farm (for day-old poultry) for a pre-designated time period will alleviate any government concerns for risk of the imported product.

  • Pre-arranged import documentation and transport assurance: When preparing for the importation of genetic stock from a Cobb-Vantress location, it is essential that all import requirements are met well in advance to avoid any denial, delay or destruction of product (eggs or chicks). This preparation includes: (1) approval of importation documentation prior to arrival, (2) approval of transportation route, transport method (via air and/or truck) and date from export location to import facility and (3) prior arrangement for inspection and/or testing of product upon arrival.

  • Pre-arranged testing of imported genetic stock: In addition to obtaining import concessions for genetic stock, added measures of certification of freedom of disease include testing of imported product at hatch or upon arrival. While we guarantee the AI Clean status of all day-old poultry and hatching eggs originating from Cobb-Vantress facilities, this secondary measure of testing will serve as an extra commitment and reassurance for the movement of this stock into your facilities.

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