A chicken infected with low pathogenic avian influenza. Photo courtesy of Dr. Nathaniel Tablante
The December 2014 to June 2015 avian influenza outbreak was the largest animal health emergency in U.S. history. The virus contributed to the death of more than 48 million birds, either due to infection with the virus or depopulation to prevent additional spread. The virus was introduced into the U.S. by wild migratory waterfowl and then spread from farm to farm in a number of ways. This included farms sharing equipment, vehicles moving between farms without being cleaned or disinfected, employees moving between infected and non-infected farms, rodents and small wild birds reported inside some poultry houses, and feed stored outside or without appropriate biosecurity measures. The virus spread was also assisted by instances of noncompliance with industry-recommended biosecurity practices.
Fortunately, avian influenza poses little threat to human health and food safety. Human infections with avian influenza are rare and most often occur after direct contact with an infected bird. Avian influenza does, however, adversely affect food availability and the economy. If a single bird became infected with the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus during the 2014-15 outbreak, every bird in the same commercial poultry house – which contains an average of 30,000 birds – was depopulated. Read more »
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agriculture Research Service (ARS) graduate student Jacquelyn Escarcha inserts samples developed from cattle fecal waste into a solution that detects Salmonella on Dec. 6, 2002. USDA photo by Peggy Greb.
At USDA, we use a One Health approach that embraces the idea that problems arising at the intersection of the health of humans, animals, and the environment can be solved only through a coordinated multidisciplinary approach. This approach embraces the idea that a disease problem impacting the health of humans, animals, and the environment only can be solved through improved communication, cooperation, and collaboration across disciplines and institutions.
Because the One Health work that we do spans across many USDA agencies, we are launching a centralized web portal page to better help our stakeholders and the public better access our information. This page features USDA’s collective body of work on antimicrobial resistance (AMR), avian influenza and swine influenza as well as other One Health resources. Read more »
Thanksgiving is all about whole turkeys, which were produced and processed earlier in the year, outside of the HPAI outbreak. This means whole turkeys will be readily available and prices will largely be unchanged from last year. Photo courtesy Dan Tentler.
The Thanksgiving season is upon us, time for family homecomings, parades, and football games. More importantly, time for the annual turkey feast. As the marketing season hits full stride, the question on everyone’s lips this year is…will there be a shortage of turkeys? The simple answer is: no.
To fully answer the question though, we have to go back to late March when commercial turkey flocks in the Upper Midwestern production region were overtaken by rapid outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). HPAI, while harmless to humans, is devastating to turkeys and within a few short weeks over 7.5 million commercial turkeys succumbed to the disease. While the total loss represented just over three percent of the total number of birds raised in the U.S. in 2014, the short time period during which losses occurred left the industry scrambling to cover their business needs. Read more »
Chickens grazing on a pasture.
Earlier this year, we experienced this country’s largest outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza, affecting more than 200 commercial and backyard poultry flocks. While there have been no new cases since mid-June, we ask that all poultry owners stay alert and be vigilant. This virus can be carried by wild waterfowl (who do not get sick from it). The fall migration is underway, so these migratory ducks, geese and other birds have the potential to bring the virus with them anywhere in the country. It doesn’t mean they will – but they could. So if you own or handle poultry, it is essential to follow good biosecurity practices at all times.
What is biosecurity? Biosecurity means taking some simple steps to keep your birds away from germs AND germs away from your birds. If you follow good biosecurity, you will help ensure your birds remain healthy. As part of good biosecurity, you should prevent contact between your birds and wild birds, and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials, either through the state veterinarian or through USDA’s toll-free number: 1-866-536-7593. Read more »
(Left to right): USDA Chief Scientist Dr. Catherine Woteki, Dr. Fidelis (Fidel) Hegngi, with the APHIS National Exotic Newcastle Disease (END) Program, and Dr. Denise Brinson Director of APHIS National Poultry Improvement Plan, pose wearing the latest in functional and fashionable wear before visiting a backyard chicken coop.
During a walk along tree-shading sidewalks in the “burbs”; you’re accustomed to seeing games of hopscotch, bike rides, and maybe even the occasional Golden Retriever. However, one residential backyard, nearly 6 miles from downtown Atlanta, calls into question whether this is suburbia at all. There were swings, a tree house, and even patio furniture. Yet one feature certified this was not your mother’s suburban home: over a dozen chickens living comfortably in a custom made “Coop de Ville.”
The rise of “backyard poultry” is one of many agricultural phenomena tied to a growing food consciousness and increased urbanization. And while USDA’s fundamental job doesn’t change, the Department does because the challenges do. The recent cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) at increasingly popular backyard chicken coops underscore this. While this concern was not clearly expressed in the 1862 Act of Congress that created the Department, the mandate was. USDA still works to “acquire and to diffuse…information” towards facilitating the protected growth of American agriculture. That service is what brought Research, Education, and Economics Undersecretary Dr. Catherine Woteki to this residence in Decatur, GA. Accompanied by Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service officials and a man known best as the “Chicken Whisperer,” Dr. Woteki toured the site and helped to shed light on current HPAI research and important biosafety measures. Read more »
Today I had a press call with our USDA partner, Dr. Alicia Fry from CDC and Dr. David Swayne of USDA’s Southeast Poultry Research Lab to help get out some important information about the avian influenza event currently occurring in the United States.
Since December 2014, USDA has confirmed cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 in the Pacific, Central and Mississippi Flyways (migratory paths for birds). The disease has been found in wild birds, as well as in some backyard and commercial poultry flocks. Read more »