Posts Tagged: Avian influenza
To reduce potential exposure to avian influenza, a new interactive website is now available to help California poultry producers, backyard poultry enthusiasts, regulators and risk managers assess the locations of waterfowl relative to poultry farms in the Central Valley.
While not all waterfowl carry avian influenza, the migratory birds are the primary reservoir of the virus that kills chickens, turkeys and other birds and can take an economic toll on the poultry industry. During an outbreak of a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza in 2014-15, nearly 50 million birds had to be killed to contain the disease in the United States.
“Avian influenza is such a devastating disease, in an abundance of caution, we want to limit any interaction between waterfowl and domestic poultry,” said Maurice Pitesky, UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist.
The California Waterfowl Tracker has been developed by Pitesky at the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis, the University of Delaware, U.S. Geological Survey and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources to show where waterfowl are.
From September through March, geese, ducks and other waterfowl migrate by the millions via the Pacific Flyway and winter in California wetlands, rice and corn fields. At the height of migration, the Central Valley is home to 3 million waterfowl.
The Central Valley is also home to the majority of the state's commercial egg-laying hens, broiler chickens and turkey flocks.
Using the web app to understand when and where waterfowl are feeding and roosting, poultry farm managers and other stakeholders will be able to consider waterfowl in their decision making. They may decide to place pasture-raised poultry in a region of the state that has less wetlands, such as Fresno. If a large number of Canada geese take up residence nearby, poultry owners may decide to move their domestic birds indoors to reduce their exposure until the migrating waterfowl move on.
Using a machine-learning approach developed by Jeff Buler, University of Delaware wildlife ecology professor, the web app produces a waterfowl density map of California's Central Valley that is automatically updated daily with both satellite and weather station information.
“The model doesn't tell us whether waterfowl are carrying avian influenza, but it helps poultry producers and regulators understand where those interfaces could happen,” Pitesky said.
Additional waterfowl habitat and next-generation radar analysis of waterfowl are integrated into the web app. Users can search one or more addresses to anticipate their farms' interaction with waterfowl. Based on the proximity of waterfowl and wild bird monitoring information from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, poultry owners can make biosecurity decisions.
“While the current version of the website is designed for California, the long-term goal is to develop and expand this system for the continental U.S. to promote health and safety of poultry flocks nationally,” Pitesky said.
To use the California Waterfowl Tracker, visit the UC Cooperative Extension Poultry website http://ucanr.edu/sites/poultry. A video of Pitesky demonstrating how to use the web app can be viewed at https://youtu.be/EOO0Q_ggZ9I.
Poultry producers who would like to be notified by UC Cooperative Extension if there is an avian influenza outbreak in their area can sign up on the California Poultry Census page at http://ucanr.edu/sites/poultry/California_Poultry_Census.
University of California poultry experts are urging poultry owners to examine biosecurity for their flocks after avian influenza was confirmed in commercial chickens in Tennessee by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on Sunday (March 5). To protect the birds' health, UC scientists recommend taking measures to prevent poultry from coming into contact with wild birds.
"Based on the initial sequence of the virus, the source of the virus is thought to be waterfowl, said Maurice Pitesky, UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist in the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis. “This is consistent with the current understanding of how avian influenza spreads and evolves. Specifically, juveniles are infected at breeding locations and travel south in the fall carrying virus. As the waterfowl move southward, they are more likely to interact with other species, increasing the risk of interspecies transmission and formation of new varieties of avian influenza.”
The case in Lincoln County, Tenn., is the first report of highly pathogenic H7 avian influenza in commercial poultry in the United States this year. The flock of 73,500 affected chickens is located within the Mississippi Flyway, one of four North American flyways for migratory birds.
“Lincoln County is located in one of the medium-high risk areas that were identified by our risk map, said Beatriz Martínez López, director of the Center for Animal Disease Modeling and Surveillance in the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis.
“We need to increase awareness of poultry producers to maximize the biosecurity implemented in their operations, particularly in those located in high risk areas, mainly farms that are in close proximity to wetlands or other wild bird feeding and resting areas,” said Martínez López.
Poultry owners can identify biosecurity strengths and weaknesses for their own farm or backyard flock by filling out a free survey designed by Martínez López and other poultry experts. People who raise chickens, quail, ducks, turkeys, geese or other birds anywhere in the United States are invited to use the resource. At the end of the survey, participants receive specific research-based recommendations of biosecurity measures they can apply on their own types of farms. The poultry biosecurity survey is available in English http://bit.ly/2kkMycf and Spanish http://bit.ly/2mjO13G. The survey takes 15 to 20 minutes to complete and will be open until June 1.
If you would like UC Cooperative Extension to notify you if there is an avian influenza outbreak in your area, sign up on the California Poultry Census page: http://ucanr.edu/sites/poultry/California_Poultry_Census.
Owners of backyard chickens who observe illness or increased mortality among their birds should call their veterinarian or the California Department of Food Agriculture sick bird hotline at (866) 922-BIRD (2473).
For more information about raising poultry, visit http://ucanr.edu/sites/poultry.
To prevent outbreaks of this highly contagious virus in the United States, commercial and backyard poultry owners are being asked to fill out an online biosecurity survey. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and UC Davis researchers are studying poultry-raising practices to help strengthen the industry's defenses against avian influenza.
“With changing migration patterns of wild birds and global movements of poultry, there is an urgent need to develop plans to protect U.S. poultry against highly pathogenic avian influenza,” said Beatriz Martínez López, director of the Center for Animal Disease Modeling and Surveillance in the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis.
People who raise chickens, quail, ducks, turkeys, geese or other birds anywhere in the United States are invited to fill out the survey.
“We want to hear from all poultry producers: from the large commercial farms producing chicken eggs to the poultry enthusiasts who raise a few ornamental show birds in their backyards,” said Martínez López, who is part of the University of California's Agricultural Experiment Station.
The survey asks which bird species are being raised and a few flock management questions. Is the flock is housed or kept outdoors? How often do you get new birds? What is the source of new birds? It also asks questions about location, such as the distance of the birds from ponds and other bodies of water that may attract migrating waterfowl.
Immediately after completing the online survey, participants receive a biosecurity score and recommendations to help them make more informed decisions.
“Each producer will receive their own biosecurity score and customized recommendations,” Martínez López said. “Recommendations highly depend on the production system and we tried to adapt them to make the changes easier to implement for individual flocks.”
The survey data will be confidential and only summaries will be made publicly available in research reports and peer-reviewed publications.
By analyzing biosecurity and management practices on poultry operations and backyard flocks, Martínez López and visiting professor Sharmin Chowdhury will be able to identify high-risk locations and time periods for avian flu outbreaks. The information will be used to develop biosecurity education programs for poultry farmers, backyard producers and poultry veterinarians.
This study is funded by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2015–09118 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
[This news release has been updated to extend the survey deadline from March 1 to June 1 and to include a link to the survey in Spanish.]
Beatriz Martinez López, DVM, firstname.lastname@example.org, (530)752-7675.
The same weather radar technology used to predict rain is now giving UC researchers the ability to track wild birds that could carry the avian influenza virus. Avian influenza, which kills chickens, turkeys and other birds, can take a significant economic toll on the poultry industry. In 2014- 2015, the United States experienced its worst bird flu outbreak in history, resulting in more than 48 million birds dying in 15 states, including California.
“We use the existing network of weather radar stations in the U.S. in the same way that radar is used to track rain, except that we process the data to allow us to interpret the radar signal bouncing off birds instead of raindrops,” said Maurice Pitesky, UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist. “The data can be interpreted to track birds.”
“By tracking mass bird movements remotely in real-time, we hope to gain novel strategic insights with respect to surveillance and prevention of avian influenza transmission to domestic poultry,” said Todd Kelman, a veterinarian and engineer who co-leads the project with Pitesky, who is also in the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis. They are exploring how the information might be used to prevent an outbreak.
In California, waterfowl migrate by the millions from September through March via the Pacific Flyway, where they winter in wetlands, rice and corn fields. The Central Valley alone is home to 3 million waterfowl at the height of migration.
“Using NEXRAD and various other approaches, we hope to be able to produce monthly or quarterly maps that will alert poultry producers as to the locations of waterfowl in the Central Valley of California,” Pitesky said.
“Waterfowl populations can have different habitat based on the amount of precipitation in a given year,” said Pitesky. “Therefore, we need to use these types of monitoring tools to understand where waterfowl are located. Landsat, or satellite-based land imagery, and NEXRAD are two remote tools that may be very useful, as opposed to flyovers and banding, which are more expensive and not practical for large geographical areas.”
The project — funded by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources — is a collaboration between UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and Jeff Buler, University of Delaware wildlife ecologist whose team first developed the NEXRAD approach in the Central Valley of California. They are also working with the U.S. Geological Survey, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the California Poultry Federation, the Pacific Egg and Poultry Association and Point Blue, an organization that focuses on conservation science.
Protecting their birds against disease should be a priority for chicken owners, no matter what size the flock, according to Maurice Pitesky, a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension specialist in the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis.
“Wild birds are the biggest risk because they can carry the virus but look completely healthy, so it's important to keep them away from your chickens,” said Pitesky. He adds that signs your chicken could have contracted avian influenza are depression, no appetite, diarrhea, soft/misshaped eggs, and sudden and increased or unexplained death in flocks.
Commonly called “bird flu,” the avian influenza virus - routinely found in wild waterfowl - can spread to chickens and other domestic poultry and cause significant mortality and economic loss. This year the nation has experienced the worst bird flu outbreak in history, with three confirmed cases in California — two of which carried the more dangerous, highly pathogenic strain. In each case, the disease, which is not dangerous to humans, was introduced by wild waterfowl migrating along the Pacific Flyway. Some of these wild birds might now be carrying the Eurasian strain of the H5 highly pathogenic avian influenza.
Pitesky and the California Department of Food and Agriculture offer some important bioscurity tips to help reduce the risk of your chickens contracting bird flu:
- Wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer before and after working with chickens.
- Use footbaths before entering and exiting the fenced-off coop area. Each footbath — a covered container with an approved disinfectant to disinfect shoes — should be placed in a staging station, such as on a concrete surface or a pallet, to prevent dirt from being tracked into the footbath. Disinfectant should be changed daily to be effective.
- Have designated “coop boots.” These will be the only shoes that go into your chicken area, and they won't go anywhere else. If you hunt waterfowl, make sure your equipment and clothing are separate from your domestic poultry.
- Don't allow wild animals and waterfowl to come in contact with your chickens. For example, if you have a pond or body of water that can attract waterfowl to or near your facility, consider draining if feasible.
- When obtaining birds, isolate them from other birds for 30 days before adding them into your flock. This will reduce the risk of introducing disease into the original flock.
- Always obtain birds from reputable, disease-free sources that practice good biosecurity methods, and purchase feed from clean, dependable suppliers. Store the feed in containers that are bird, rodent, and insect proof. Provide clean, fresh water to your birds at all times.
- Restrict access by visitors onto the premises where your birds are housed. Do not allow people who own other birds to come in contact with your birds.
- Report signs of illness or increased mortality to your veterinarian or the Sick Bird Hotline 866-922-BIRD (2473). In addition, necropsies are provided free-of-charge for owners of less than 1,000 chickens at the school's California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System.
By joining the California Poultry Census, you can receive the latest information and updates about avian influenza in California.
Early disease detection, prevention key to limiting spread of disease
State officials credit early disease detection and prevention, through proactive surveillance and good biosecurity practices, as key factors limiting the spread of avian influenza. For example, a wildlife surveillance program conducted by USDA Wildlife Services regularly submits samples to the veterinary school's California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System at UC Davis for testing. This helps scientists and animal health officials understand where certain viruses are circulating in the U.S., including the more dangerous strains for domestic poultry.
UC poultry experts are conducting a statewide survey of backyard chickens, and providing outreach and training on health and disease prevention to individuals who, in turn, will provide the information to backyard chicken producers and small, commercial chicken operations. In addition, veterinary researchers Rodrigo Gallardo and Beate Crossley have recently been awarded a grant to study new, highly pathogenic viruses affecting the U.S. poultry industry. The goal is to better understand why these viruses have been so difficult to eradicate and to help prevent their introduction to commercial farms.
- University of California Cooperative Extension Poultry Resources
- CDFA Backyard Biosecurity for Poultry
- USDA Backyard Biosecurity