Important Information for Poultry Producers

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The following article was written by NC State Extension Area Specialized Poultry Agent Jonas Asbill with contributions from Richard Goforth, Lauren Greene, and Margaret Ross.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI or “bird flu”) is a real threat to the poultry industry in North Carolina, the United States, and other poultry producing countries around the globe. Surveillance testing by the USDA has confirmed the presence of the virus in at least five states already this year. Waterfowl in South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, and Maryland have tested positive in recent weeks. Now a commercial flock of turkeys in Indiana has tested positive as well. There is a need for immediate action from all of those associated with poultry and the poultry industry.

“These findings continue to support evidence that high path avian influenza is currently present in the Atlantic Americas migratory flyway,” said State Veterinarian Mike Martin. “Wild birds can carry this virus asymptomatically and potentially spread it to domestic poultry. We strongly encourage all poultry owners to follow strict biosecurity measures for at least the next 30 days, which is the time frame these birds are anticipated to be migrating through the state.”  Biosecurity measures include keeping your birds isolated from other people and animals in an enclosed environment. Bird owners should also keep their flock away from ponds where they might encounter migrating birds. –  NCDA&CS News Release January 27th

Producers, both big and small, should continue to practice proper biosecurity protocols to keep commercial and domestic flocks away from areas frequented by migratory birds, all waterfowl, and other wild birds. The main point here is that they do not need to have free access to the outdoors in a way that is unprotected. HPAI could wipe out an entire flock when infected. In addition to routine biosecurity protocols, other things to consider at this time include: relocating flocks away from all natural bodies of water, covering the top of any open or screened runs with metal and/or plastic to prevent wild bird droppings from falling into the bird area, and removing wild bird feeders or distancing them from any backyard flocks as much as possible. Also, if your birds are more confined than usual, consider adding forms of enrichment to discourage birds from pecking one another such as tree branches, cabbage, melons, pecking blocks, hanging aluminum pie pans, etc.

Please take a look at our HPAI educational resource page. Share this information with other poultry keepers that you know as well. We all need to know the facts and be extra cautious during this time to protect our flocks and our industry. If you have any specific questions or concerns not addressed in this article, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your local Poultry ASA. You can determine the appropriate contact for your county by reviewing this map.