Avian Influenza

(Photo by Laci Jones)

By Barry Whitworth

On March 5, 2017, the United States Department of Agriculture Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) announced that a commercial chicken breeder flock in Lincoln County, Tennessee, was infected with Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). This flock was located in the Mississippi fly zone.

Based on genetic testing, the virus was the North American wild bird lineage H7N9. On March 16, a second flock located three kilometers away was also infected with the virus. All flocks were depopulated. A handful of states have found Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI) in commercial and backyard flocks.

All these flocks were depopulated. When HPAI is detected in a flock, the United States is required to notify the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and other trading partners. Hopefully, the impact on export of poultry products will be minimal. An investigation is underway to determine the source of the infection.

Avian influenza is a viral disease that primarily causes problems in domestic poultry. It is extremely rare that humans ever get Avian Influenza. The disease, originally known as “the fowl plague,” was first seen in Italy around 1878. The U.S. outbreak that begin in the winter of 2014 and ended in the summer 2015 resulted in 50 million birds destroyed.

This outbreak was estimated to cost $1.6 billion in direct losses of turkeys and egg laying hens. However, when accounting for all factors associated with the poultry industry, the estimated impact on the U.S. economy was $3.3 billion. This was the most costly animal disease outbreak in the history of the United States. One major lesson learned was biosecurity must be improved. This lesson should not be taken lightly for back yard poultry enthusiasts.

Learn more in the May issue of OKFR!