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Press Releases

January 18, 2016
Avian Influenza in Indiana Gives Virginia Poultry Owners another Reason to Practice Strict Biosecurity
Contact: Elaine Lidholm, 804.786.7686


Dr. Richard Wilkes, State Veterinarian with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), stresses that while Virginia does not currently have any positive cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) – or any other type of avian influenza – the state has been on high alert for more than a year now due to cases in other parts of the country. “With these recent cases of HPAI in Indiana, I cannot stress enough the importance of biosecurity,” he said. “This applies both to commercial growers and backyard flock owners.”

Wilkes said Virginia has been preparing for avian influenza since 2002 when an outbreak in the state devastated a six-county area. He noted that the state ramped up efforts over the past year by purchasing new equipment, holding training exercises and sending two teams to the Midwest last summer to assist with outbreaks in Minnesota and Iowa. “Nothing prepares you for responding to a disease better than actually responding to a disease,” he said.

From December 2014 through June 2015, HPAI affected 48 million poultry on 223 premises in the West and Midwest. It was the most costly and significant animal disease outbreak in U.S. history, with a total cost of more than $1 billion. “We don’t want it in Virginia,” Wilkes said, “and one of our best prevention strategies is to practice proper biosecurity.”

Biosecurity
The most important thing bird owners can do to prevent disease is to practice biosecurity at all times. This means taking measures to prevent the introduction of virus. These measures include the following actions:

  • Limit access – Do not allow visitors or even other family members near poultry.
  • Keep it clean – Use dedicated footwear and clothing for feeding and handling poultry. With backyard flocks, leave your shoes at the chicken yard entrance; don’t wear them anywhere else. Always wash hands and clean or disinfect clothing and footwear after handling poultry or eggs.
  • Do not allow poultry in areas where waterfowl could have left droppings.
  • Do not leave grain or feed in areas accessible to wild birds.
  • Do not bring the disease home - Only buy chicks from the National Poultry Improvement Program’s AI Clean hatcheries; isolate any new additions if unsure of AI Clean status and do not borrow or use equipment from neighbors that may harbor the virus
  • Finally, if you suspect a bird might be infected with HPAI, remember that prompt testing is critical. Contact VDACS at 804.786.2483 as soon as possible. “Minutes count,” said Wilkes. “If you see sick or dead birds, call immediately.”

For more information about biosecurity measures and plans, contact the State Veterinarian’s Office at 804.692.0601 or your local Office of Veterinary Services at the Regional Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory in your area. Go to vdacs.virginia.gov and click on the biosecurity button on the rotating slide show or type “biosecurity” in the search bar. To review biosecurity actions, go to uspoultry.org/animal_husbandry/intro.cfm.


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