Lessons Learnt from Bird Flu Outbreaks

US - The US poultry industry and the authorities need to learn the lessons from the outbreaks of low pathogen avian flu in Virginia and West Virginia last year, ThePoultrySite Senior Editor Chris Harris reports from Atlanta.
calendar icon 23 January 2008
clock icon 4 minute read

"If it is going to cost the animals' lives and it is going to cost money, we need to know what we are doing."
Dr Robert Owen

Delivering the keynote speech at the International Poultry Scientific Forum in Atlanta on Tuesday, Dr Robert Owen from Alpharma Animal Products said that while there had been some good aspects in handling the outbreaks, there had also been some disasters.

Dr Owen said that the outbreaks that took place in March and July last year on turkey farms in Virginia and West Virginia had cost the US tax payer $3 million.

And he warned that better methods of dealing with the disease needed to be in place if and when a new outbreak takes place.

Dr Owen, who was one of the team of vets sent in to manage the outbreaks warned that the methods of diagnosis of the disease had to be improved and he said that there should be better surveillance to give early warning of outbreaks to ensure that infected flocks are not moving about the country.

He called for rapid tests for low pathogen avian influenza - such as Antigen or Flu Detect - to be used for speedy detection of the virus.

"If it is going to cost the animals' lives and it is going to cost money, we need to know what we are doing," Dr Own said.

Dr Owen also called for better handling methods for depopulation of flocks and disposal of the carcases.

He called for teams of trained experts in each state to be in place to deal with the slaughter and disposal of birds. "The team has to be trained and it has to practice," he said.

"When you are dealing with animals' lives, as vets, you have to do it in an efficient manner."

He added that it was essential to have an effective appraisal of the situation and the disease and he said that there needs to be proper controlled guidelines to manage similar situations.

"The public have an issue with killing large numbers of animals and the tax payer will have a problem with it as well."

He added that he would prefer to see a system of controlled slaughter for outbreaks of low pathogen avian influenza and he said that the trading partners with the US also had to be involved in the discussion to ensure that unreasonable embargos were not put in place.

Dr Owen also said that the individual farms had to take more responsibility for managing outbreaks and they should have preapproved action plans for the slaughter and disposal of flocks should an outbreak occur. He said that this needs to be for every bird house and every company.

Further Reading

- You can visit the Avian Flu page by clicking here.
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