Bird flu precautions in place


Extension Agent Phil Rucker says the latest strain of High Pathogenic Avian Influenza is still confined to the Midwestern and Western parts of the country, but with the chance of migratory birds transporting this disease to this area, locals must be prepared.

To help North Carolina prepare for a possible introduction of highly pathogenic avian influenza, State Veterinarian Doug Meckes announced additional precautions that are being put in place “to clear up any rumors, so far no one has gotten sick from this strain of Avian Flu. We have been very lucky from that standpoint,” Rucker said. “There is no danger of getting this flu virus from eating cooked eggs or poultry meat. For more detailed risk factors please visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/.”

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is requiring all poultry owners, regardless of the number of birds, to register for an NCFarmID number. You can obtain an NCFarmID number at the following website: http://www.ncagr.gov/ncfarmid/. This will facilitate the department in alerting poultry owners about an outbreak, especially owners in close proximity to a positive farm. Poultry owners also can sign up for a national premises ID number, but it is not required. Anyone already part of the National Poultry Improvement Plan is exempt from this requirement. An online sign-up form will be available after Aug. 1.

“In planning our response for highly pathogenic avian influenza, one problem we’ve come across is that we can’t protect birds that we don’t know exist,” Meckes said. “We need to know where poultry are located so we can properly protect commercial and backyard flocks.” Information gathered through NCFarmID registration is used solely for animal health purposes. This critical data will provide animal health officials with necessary contact information in case of an animal health concern, and help identify animals and premises that may have been affected.

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services also is requiring any commercial poultry grower with 200 or more birds to submit a HPAI outbreak plan. A commercial grower would be any grower under contract with an integrated company.

“It’s very important that growers think through the worst-case scenario, because a confirmation of high-path avian flu would certainly be a worst-case scenario,” Meckes said. “We want each grower to consider their resources and location to determine how they can best handle an outbreak in a way that is environmentally sensitive and gets them back online as soon as is feasible.”

An HPAI Outbreak Plan template will be available on the department’s website after Aug. 1. Commercial growers will need to submit the plan to the Veterinary Division no later than Sept. 15. While only commercial growers will be required to submit the plan, all flock owners are encouraged to plan ahead and consider how they would respond to a confirmed positive.

From a Small Flock Owner Standpoint, this strain of Avian Flu is carried by seemingly healthy migratory waterfowl. The biggest threat to the North Carolina flock owners are in the spring and fall migratory season. So far, at least 231 farms in the Midwest and West coast areas have been affected and depopulated and there has been over a hundred million dollars of financial loss directly related to this disease. It is potentially a big deal. A potential rise in the price of eggs and poultry meat could occur for consumers in the near future This strain of highly pathogenic bird flu can devastate a flock of birds in a matter of days. Since many of our small flock owners have a personal relationship with their birds it can be very devastating to their owners and families to loose whole flocks of birds both from an emotional and financial standpoint.

What can we do? As small flock owners, you must treat this as a potentially very contagious bird disease that is easily spread from one flock to another. We need to keep visitors out of our poultry pens and follow NC laws that state that we have to keep our birds on our own property. If you have to let people into your chicken pens, make sure that are wearing disposable boots and coveralls. Try to keep birds indoors especially during spring and fall while migratory waterfowl are flying overhead. Keep birds away from farm ponds and grassy areas around ponds. Do not order biddies from Midwest or West coast hatcheries until the threat of this virus is determined by authorities to be near zero. Wear different foot gear to agri-supply stores than you wear while doing your poultry chores.

What do you do if you have sick birds? If you have more than one chicken with respiratory issues that looks like it might not last much longer, you may want to contact the Diagnostic lab at Elkin 336-526-02499 or Raleigh 919-733-3986 to make an appointment to take the bird in before it dies so it can be humanely euthanized and necropsied to see what the cause of illness was.

Last month our NCDA State Veterinarian and Commissioner of Agriculture, announced that bird shows, public sales, live bird markets and many producer meetings/workshops would be halted from Aug. 15, 2015 to January 15, 2016. The intent is to prevent birds and potentially exposed producers from commingling and spreading the HPAI virus. Individual sales are still allowed to take place. Please be aware of this and be glad we are trying to be proactive in North Carolina to try to prevent its potential spread in our State. For continued updates please visit the NCDA website at http://ncagr.gov/avianflu/.

Residents can contact Phil Rucker with NC Cooperative Extension 336-753-6100 (Davie) or 336-679-2061 (Yadkin) or email phil_rucker@ncsu.edu for help in obtaining a Farm ID or additional information and biosecurity management.

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