Visitor biosecurity in poultry production

January 14, 2019

This post was written by Neogen vet Nick Wagner, DVM

Biosecurity is at the forefront of preventing disease and maintaining healthy birds to ensure the productivity and profitability of the poultry industry. The most successful biosecurity programs in the industry include a multifaceted approach to achieving and maintaining a healthy flock. One of the components of a multifaceted approach that serves as the initial line of defense for a production facility is visitor biosecurity. Visitor biosecurity involves the procedures implemented at the facility entry point to prevent the transmission of disease onto the site and into the flock. Visitor biosecurity is a fundamental part of any comprehensive biosecurity program and must be implemented in a way that contributes to the success of that overall plan.

Access to the production facility should be restricted and a specific location should be designated for individuals to report to prior to gaining entry. It is important that a defined secure perimeter is established for the facility and signs are clearly posted to communicate this information to potential visitors. Maintain records of visitor traffic, which can be valuable information for traceback purposes in the event of a disease outbreak or other concern. At this entry location, facility personnel should determine the risk level of the visitor by assessing the individual’s previous exposure to birds. Low-risk visitors would be classified as those individuals with no previous exposure to birds or any production agriculture setting. Although it may appear that these low-risk visitors present no risk at all, consideration must be given to the potential contamination that they could acquire in a public place. Moderate-risk visitors would be classified as those individuals with consistent trips to production facilities but without direct contact with the birds. High-risk visitors would be classified as those individuals with consistent trips to production facilities and have had direct contact with birds in the previous 24 hours. The general standard in the industry is to restrict access for 48–72 hours to those individuals with direct bird contact in the previous 24 hours.

Previous exposure to sick birds is another factor that might influence visitors’ access to the facilities. The specific disease involved will determine the recommended period of isolation for individual visitors. The isolation period may be one week or longer to prevent the transmission of disease. Disease outbreaks such as avian influenza or virulent Newcastle disease would trigger a quarantine, which would cease all visitor movement on and off a facility to ensure proper containment. A quarantine could be in effect for a period of 30 days or more depending on the specific outbreak. It is important to note that each operation will design a visitor biosecurity protocol to best fit its needs. Following this assessment, a determination is made on granting access and the specific procedures the individual must comply with in entering the facility.

All visitors must have clean hands, footwear and clothing upon entry. Each facility will be unique in its biosecurity plan for handling procedures to accomplish this important goal. Let’s outline examples of effective practices implemented in the poultry industry.

The initial procedure for visitors that will not enter the barns housing the birds is to clean and sanitize their hands upon arrival. Ideally, hands should be washed with soap and water prior to application of a sanitizer; however, this option will not always be available. Therefore, use a hand sanitizer that will dry quickly and leave no residue to eliminate most infectious agents in one simple step. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer would be an effective disinfectant for this purpose. Next, one should ensure that footwear is clean prior to walking onto the premise. The production facility may provide personal protective equipment (PPE) in the form of clean disposable boots for this purpose. Regardless of the availability of disposable boots, it is beneficial to utilize a ready-to-use, broad spectrum disinfectant that will dry quickly and leave no residue to treat footwear worn onto the premise to prevent the transmission of disease prior to entry. A combination disinfectant containing a phenol with an alcohol in a quick application aerosol spray would be an effective product for this purpose. Some facilities may utilize disinfectant footbaths as an alternative method to addressing footwear worn onto the premise. However, it is important to note that these footbaths will require continued monitoring in order to be maintained effectively. Neglected footbaths accumulate organic matter as personnel step in and out, reducing the effectiveness of the disinfectant. One must ensure that no dirty clothing is worn onto the premise as well. When the visit is complete, remove any disposable boots and place in the proper discard area. Repeat the disinfection procedure on the individual’s worn footwear. Finally, clean and sanitize hands prior to departure.

The procedures to be followed by visitors that will enter the barns housing the birds include additional biosecurity measures. One program requires showering in and showering out. On these facilities, a designated area is provided for the individual to remove and store all attire worn onto the premise. The individual then showers and proceeds to a clean area to put on clothing and PPE provided by the facility to be worn while in direct contact with the birds. Following the visit, this clothing and PPE remains on-site for laundering or disposal to prevent any possible exposure off-site. The individual showers out and returns to put on their street clothing before departing. Another program involves the facility providing the visitor with PPE to be worn as their outer layer and implementing an area with a clearly demarcated line of separation for this transition to occur. The individual enters a designated area to remove their outer attire. The individual then cleans and sanitizes their hands and proceeds to put on the supplied PPE for entry to the production facility. The PPE referenced would include coveralls, boots, gloves, and hair coverings. Following the visit, the PPE is discarded on site for appropriate disposal and the individual returns to retrieve their street clothing before departure. Despite these increased measures, it is still advantageous to incorporate previously discussed techniques to clean and sanitize hands and to disinfect footwear as additional precautions prior to entering these designated biosecurity transition areas.

Diligence in conjunction with the training of personnel will provide the foundation necessary for high-level, consistent implementation of an effective visitor biosecurity plan. This successful management of visitor traffic at the production facility will limit the exposure of the birds to harmful infectious agents, which is vital to maintaining a healthy flock.


    1. USDA, Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Information Manual for Implementing Poultry Biosecurity. October 2018.
    1. Schuenemann G M. On Farm Biosecurity: Traffic Control and Sanitation. Fact Sheet. The Ohio State University Extension. June 2017.
    1. USDA, Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Poultry Industry Manual. March 2013.

Category: Animal Safety, Poultry, Animal Health, Sanitation & Hygiene