Dr Maurice Pitesky, DVM, MPVM, ACMPM, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine is major contributor to this blog.
Preparing for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in California:
Tips and Resources for Pasture Poultry Producers and Other Poultry Owners
|Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza
(HPAI) fact sheet
|UC Davis Pasture Poultry
|UCCE's Backyard Poultry Census|
|California Animal Health and Food Safety
Laboratory System (CAHFS)
|CDFA Poultry Risk Assessment Guide|
Note to 'backyard' producers: see link to Poultry Census.
Our temperate winter climates are not only appealing to the estimated 39 million people that reside in California, it is also the perfect habitat for the estimated 6 million ducks and geese that migrate south in the fall and winter. This migration of waterfowl follows the “Pacific Flyway” which traverses Alaska to the southern tip of Chile.
It is estimated that ~5-20% (~300,000 to 1.2 million) of the waterfowl arriving in California every fall are shedding the Avian Influenza (AI) virus. The virus is maintained in the intestinal tract of infected waterfowl and infected birds can shed the virus in their feces for approximately 7 days. Depending on the environmental conditions the virus can remain viable in the environment for months.
The reality that avian influenza is endemic in waterfowl and that they are the primary reservoir of disease is an important fact that we need to be aware of in order to protect our flocks. In addition, while the virus does not typically cause disease in waterfowl and other avian wildlife, certain strains of avian influenza can cause high mortality in domestic poultry. Consequently, it is important to mitigate contact between domestic poultry and waterfowl including shared environments in order reduce the potential for transmission of disease. Therefore, while we know the source of AI, the burden is on us to reduce the risk of transmission of disease to our domestic flocks.
Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in North America:
Farm Plan for HPAI
Each poultry operation is unique and should therefore have a operation specific plan in place to address biosecurity. Having a plan in place is also a key component to getting indemnification payment from USDA if there is an outbreak and the flock must be depopulated. California Department of Food & Ag has a Biosecurity Risk Assessment Guide (pdf) to help poultry operations prepare for and deal with biosecurity issues. In addition you can contact the USDA-APHIS if you have specific questions regarding preparation and eligibility for indemnification.
What can you do to protect your flocks in Sonoma and Marin Counties?
Pastured poultry production is a unique approach toward poultry husbandry. However, like all food-animal production systems there are advantages and disadvantages to each system. Bio-Security (the prevention of disease from getting on to your farm and causing disease in your birds) is a significant weakness in pastured poultry production. Learn more at Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)
BACKYARD POULTRY PRODUCERS
Participate in UCCE's Backyard Poultry Census so that you will be notified if HPAI (or some other deadly disease) is making its way through California poultry
More information about Pasture Poultry can be found at Dr Pitesky's site: UCCE Poultry/table>
- Author: UC Davis News Service
From UC Davis News Service:
UC Davis experts are urging backyard chicken enthusiasts and commercial poultry owners to practice strong biosecurity measures to prevent contact with wild birds, due to highly pathogenic strains of avian influenza recently detected in migratory waterfowl in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and Butte County, California.
The current detected strains, H5N2 and H5N8, are not a risk to human health and have not been found in commercial poultry in the United States. However, commercial poultry flocks in British Columbia and backyard flocks in Washington and Oregon have been affected.
"Due to normal waterfowl migration along the Pacific Flyway, during the winter there are approximately eight times the number of waterfowl in California than what we will see three months from now,"
said Maurice Pitesky, a poultry specialist with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. "There are lots of birds that winter and establish roosting and feeding habitat in California wetlands and agricultural crops. If you are a poultry owner -- either backyard or commercial -- and live in proximity to waterfowl and their habitat, your birds are at risk."
Owners of backyard chickens who observe illness or increased mortality in their birds should call their veterinarian or the California Department of Food Agriculture sick bird hotline at (866) 922-2473.
The California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System includes four diagnostic labs in Davis, Turlock, Tulare and San Bernardino. The labs encourage veterinarians and owners of backyard chickens to submit sick or recently dead birds for necropsy (postmortem) examination. The exam is free of charge for California backyard flock owners of fewer than 1,000 birds (chicken, turkey, waterfowl and squabs). For more information, contact (530) 752-8700 or visit UC Davis Veterinary Medicine.
Reduce the risk of bird flu
To reduce the risk of avian influenza transmission, chickens should be kept separate from wild birds and monitored for signs of illness or increased mortality. The CDFA also urges owners to take the following necessary and crucial precautions:
* If you have a pond or body of water that can attract waterfowl to or near your facility, consider draining if feasible.
* Provide housing to confine domestic poultry and/or enclose an exercise area with netting.
* Avoid use of water that comes from sources where waterfowl may congregate during migration.
* Ideally, owners of poultry should try to avoid waterfowl hunting during migration. Otherwise, ensure clothing, footwear, vehicles, etc. used during hunts are laundered and/or disinfected.
* Permit only essential workers and vehicles on premises and provide disposable coveralls, boots and head coverings for visitors.
* Clean and disinfect vehicles and equipment entering or leaving the premises.
* Control movement associated with the disposal of mortality, litter and manure.
Information on good biosecurity and hygiene precautions to keep backyard flocks healthy can be found at:
* UC Cooperative Extension: Backyard Poultry Resources
* USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
* California Department of Food and Agriculture Avian Health Program
Reports of dead, wild birds can be directed to the Wildlife Investigations Lab at (916) 358-2790. There is also a on-line application for submission.