Thursday, November 17, 2016

WSDA veterinarians gear up for bird flu

Mike Louisell

It seems to me as if WSDA’s veterinarians and emergency response team members are like fire fighters – both groups train for the worst but hope for the best. The reality is, fires do happen and so do outbreaks of deadly avian influenza.
A  foam spray operation demonstrated at Lacey training event.

In October, 60 people from Washington’s commercial poultry farms, state and federal agencies and WSDA participated in a training event at the Thurston County Fairgrounds.

They learned about protective gear to wear when responding to an avian influenza event and the proper use of respirators and other safety measures. They also witnessed the operation of a foaming machine used as one of several tools to depopulate flocks during disease emergencies.

 “The trust we have developed with our producers over the years is a critical asset if we need to respond to disease outbreaks,” said Lyndon Badcoe, WSDA avian health veterinarian and epidemiologist. “Our training and the support from the poultry industry is much appreciated.”

2014-2015 outbreak

Highly pathogenic avian influenza is fatal in poultry and spreads quickly. The first outbreak of the disease in our state started in December 2014 and carried over to 2015. Avian influenza remains an on-going risk for poultry here.

In a blog post, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that the 2014/2015 avian influenza outbreak involving several states was the largest animal health emergency in America’s history. The virus contributed to the death of 48 million birds.

Protect your flock

Whether you own a large flock or just a few backyard chickens, there are several practices to keep in mind to protect your chickens from bird flu:
  • Report any signs of illness or increased deaths among your flock to your veterinarian or call WSDA’s Sick Bird Hotline at 1-800-606-3056.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer before and after working with poultry.
  • Designate a pair of boots or shoes for use only in the coop.
  • Prevent wild animals and waterfowl from coming into contact with your chickens. If you have a pond that attracts waterfowl, consider draining it if that’s practical.
  • Isolate new birds for a 30 days before introducing them into your flock.
  • Use reputable sources for birds and store in rodent-proof container.
  • Place footbaths on a concrete pad or pallet.
Poultry institute program at WSU Puyallup

Regulatory officials and veterinarians are also sharing information to help prevent an outbreak of avian flu or minimize its spread if it were to occur. Poultry experts from Washington State University, WSDA, University of California, Davis and industry representatives met Nov. 10 in Puyallup to discuss disease control. And earlier this year, the National Poultry Improvement Program Biannual Conference was held in Bellevue, also covering issues around preventing an outbreak of avian influenza.

Bird owners can visit our Avian Health Program webpage tips on biosecurity to learn more about poultry care and management, as well as disease prevention.