US poultry farmers advised to step up biosecurity

By Chloe Ryan

- Last updated on GMT

The US government expects to spend $191m paying chicken and turkey farmers for birds lost to avian flu
The US government expects to spend $191m paying chicken and turkey farmers for birds lost to avian flu

Related tags Influenza Influenza vaccine Avian influenza Livestock Poultry

Farmers in the US are being urged to redouble their efforts with basic biosecurity measures to try and stop the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).

The disease has so far been confirmed in 15 States, with 48 million birds slaughtered. Yesterday, at a bird flu conference in Des Moines, Iowa, one of the worst-hit states, agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack said congress may have to consider a disaster program for poultry producers similar to that for other livestock farmers.

Iowa governor Terry Branstad said it was important to “be as prepared as we can and do what we can from a biosecurity perspective to avoid it recurring or having it spread like it did this spring”​.

This message was echoed by speakers at a separate conference 650 miles away. Speakers at USPoultry’s 2015 Hatchery-Breeder Clinic, in Nashville, Tennessee, organised by the US Poultry and Egg Association, placed a heavy emphasis on biosecurity.

Three general principles

Shawn Carlton, technical service manager at poultry research company Cobb-Vantress, told farmers there was nothing about biosecurity that was difficult to master, and it was the key to stopping the spread of AI. “There are three general principles,”​ he said. “Go to a farm clean, leave the farm clean and, if in doubt, clean and disinfect.”

Speaking to an audience of poultry farmers, Carlton outlined best practices for sanitation at a breeder farm. He emphasised the need for a biosecurity programme that included monitoring and control methods, such as water sanitation, reduction of stressors that may cause bacterial infection in flocks, equipment disinfection and contamination monitoring.

Dr Charles Hatcher, state veterinarian for Tennessee, also called for better biosecurity measures in his presentation to the conference. “I believe our single best hope is biosecurity, both for the prevention and control of spreading,”​ he told delegates. “There is no way we can begin to plan for a worst-case scenario for the fall season unless we know site-specific biosecurity, depopulation and disposal plans to combat this highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza.”

The US government expects to spend $191 million paying chicken and turkey farmers for birds lost to avian flu, Vilsack revealed. The government has already spent $400m on cleaning up dead birds and disinfecting and is paying to research and stockpile a bird flu vaccine in case the virus returns.

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