Report: Strong biosecurity helped limit avian flu in the U.S.

July 11, 2017

According to a new epidemiology report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), thorough biosecurity practices have helped to limit the number of avian flu outbreaks in the U.S. this year.

According to the report, the main reasons the disease spread in early 2017 were environmental, and the spread was limited due to the quick response of farmers in implementing biosecurity measures.

“In this case, rapid response and improved biosecurity practices helped to limit transmission between operations during this outbreak,” said Donna Karlsons, an APHIS spokesperson. According to her, the poultry industry has improved its response times since the 2014-2015 outbreaks.

The report looked at cases of avian flu, including both highly pathogenic (HPAI) and low pathogenic (LPAI) strains, beginning in March 2017 in four U.S. states: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee. The goal? To identify how the disease spread, and importantly, how to prevent future outbreaks.

How was it spread?

The main culprits in these cases, according to APHIS, are likely wild birds. All strains of the HPAI H7N9 viruses in 2017 were found by genetic analyses to be of North American wild bird lineage.

APHIS theorizes that an original LPAI strain was introduced into the commercial poultry industry, where it later mutated to HPAI. Evidence suggests the possibility of more than just one introduction of the virus from wild birds. From there, APHIS suggests a “limited” lateral spread from farm to farm.

“The fact that backyard operations have also been impacted adds credence to the theory that this outbreak was governed in large part by exposure to environmental sources of the virus,” the report said.

“We know that avian influenza viruses continue to circulate in migratory birds and waterfowl in North America,” Karlsons said. “For this reason, strict biosecurity measures are crucial to keep the disease from entering and spreading among poultry operations.”

How can poultry farmers reduce the risk of future cases?

APHIS notes a few areas where producers should be careful:

  • Avoid rolling egg carts from the truck to the barn across outdoor concrete pads.

  • Avoid using workroom doors that have been held open for cooling as alternative entrances. Always use the formal entrance with a foot bath.

  • Clean and maintain foot baths, and keep organic material away from them.

  • Instruct workers thoroughly in biosecurity protocols.

Neogen offers more tips in our blog post on avian flu biosecurity. Check them out here.

To learn more about Neogen’s full line of poultry biosecurity products and recommended protocols, click here.