Keep­ing bird flu at bay

The Poultry Bulletin - - CONTENTS -

There’s no sub­sti­tute for biose­cu­rity

Global out­breaks of bird flu, in­clud­ing the worst ever in US his­tory, has sharp­ened the fo­cus of pro­duc­ers, govern­ments and con­sumers on the disease – and what steps to take to pro­tect flocks and the in­dus­try.

Var­i­ous mu­ta­tions of the AI virus led to in­fec­tions in many coun­tries, and it is gen­er­ally ac­cepted that the virus has set­tled in wild bird pop­u­la­tions. This means that the risk of in­fec­tions re­oc­cur­ring is very high in­deed, and po­ten­tial out­breaks can hap­pen any­time, any­where, with­out any warn­ing.

“We en­coun­tered the worst an­i­mal disease out­break in US his­tory, in which we lost the birds of 223 com­pa­nies,” said United Egg Pro­duc­ers’ Chad Gre­gory. “In hind­sight, we learnt many lessons, rang­ing from mea­sures to en­sure faster de­pop­u­la­tion and bet­ter or­gan­ised dis­posal of dead birds to vac­ci­na­tion and, of course, im­proved biose­cu­rity and the is­sue of shar­ing crews and equip­ment be­tween farms.” The in­abil­ity to keep ahead of the virus spread was a prob­lem faced by United Egg, whose Chair­man Jim Dean re­ported losses of around 5.5 mil­lion birds.

“The virus spread fur­ther since we couldn’t cull birds fast enough. With the virus source not un­der con­trol, we saw other farms be­come in­fected,” he said, adding that

even be­fore in­fec­tion of the first farm, many biose­cu­rity mea­sures were in place.

“That said, we learnt ex­pen­sive lessons. The first and fore­most is ‘Trust, but ver­ify!’ For ex­am­ple, for years we had the rule that our work­ers couldn’t en­ter a fa­cil­ity within 72 hours af­ter be­ing in con­tact with other poul­try. When we re­signed the agree­ment, the crew com­pany said they would have to charge us ex­tra to com­ply with this rule, say­ing that they thought the rule wasn’t manda­tory be­fore.” Farm biose­cu­rity is all about prop­erly de­signed pro­to­cols, their com­pre­hen­sive and rig­or­ous im­ple­men­ta­tion, and be­ing pre­pared for the worst.

“Biose­cu­rity keeps out Avian In­fluenza as well as all kinds of pathogens, viruses and bac­te­ria that can be kept at bay with strict hy­giene,” says An­drew Joret of the British Egg Pro­duc­ing Coun­cil, who of­ten chal­lenges farm­ers to imag­ine the per­fect model farm with per­fect hu­man and an­i­mal move­ments. Joret says pro­duc­ers can learn a lot this way, which can lead to changes in an ex­ist­ing sit­u­a­tion.

“A model farm wouldn’t be built near open wa­ter or other poul­try con­cen­tra­tions, it would have a perime­ter fence with only one en­try point with a bar­rier, park­ing out­side and dis­in­fect­ing fa­cil­i­ties. The farm would have a sin­gle age sys­tem and the build­ing would be tight and chick­ens would be in­doors.” He adds that re­strict­ing the num­ber of vis­i­tors will cost noth­ing, while hav­ing em­ploy­ees park out­side the farm to pre­vent ‘dirty’ ve­hi­cles from en­ter­ing the farm grounds will be in­ex­pen­sive. Dis­in­fect­ing the few ve­hi­cles that are al­lowed on farms will not be costly ei­ther.

“And why should you al­low the feed truck to en­ter? Sup­ply­ing the house from out­side the fence is a pos­si­bil­ity too. And what about ser­vice per­son­nel? Do you al­low them to bring their own tools and tool­box, which could have been at another farm as well? Or do you in­vest in farm-owned tools?”

With bird flu present in the di­rect en­vi­ron­ment of the world’s poul­try pop­u­la­tion, pre­vent­ing the AI virus from en­ter­ing the house re­quires max­i­mum at­ten­tion, us­ing trusted and ver­i­fied best prac­tices.¡

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