(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 »
Since December 2014, USDA has confirmed several cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 in the Pacific, Central, and Mississippi flyways (or migratory bird paths). The disease has been found in wild birds, as well as in a few backyard and commercial poultry flocks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections to be low. No human cases of these HPAI H5 viruses have been detected in the United States, Canada, or internationally.
Anyone who owns or works with poultry—whether on a commercial farm, in the wild, or at a hobby/backyard farm—should take proper steps to keep HPAI from spreading. The best way to protect your birds is to follow good biosecurity. Even if you are already familiar with biosecurity, now is a good time to double-check your practices. You are the best protection your birds have! Read more »
Dr. Wood on set with Healthy Harry taping new biosecurity videos.
Since December 2014, there have been several highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) confirmations in migratory wild birds, back yard flocks, captive wild birds and commercial poultry in several states along the Pacific, Mississippi and Central Flyways. These HPAI virus strains can travel in wild birds without them appearing sick. In fact, if back yard poultry flocks are exposed to these particular HPAI virus strains, they are highly contagious and cause bird death. We are expecting that there will be more HPAI confirmations this spring as the bird migrations continue, so if you own or handle poultry, now is a great time to check your biosecurity practices. You should follow good biosecurity at all times to help protect the birds’ health. Your actions can make a difference! Learn more here: http://healthybirds.aphis.usda.gov
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. You also should avoid contact with sick/dead poultry or wildlife. If contact occurs, wash your hands with soap and water and change clothing before having any contact with healthy domestic poultry and birds. You are the best protection your birds have! Learn more here: http://healthybirds.aphis.usda.gov Read more »
Scott Kravetz participates in the Bird Health Awareness Week webinar. USDA photo.
As part of Bird Health Awareness Week, USDA recently hosted a webinar on “Growing Chicks into Healthy Chickens.” Dr. Martin Smeltzer, Andy Schneider (aka the “Chicken Whisperer”) and Dr. Claudia Dunkley spent an hour helping backyard bird owners learn more about keeping their flocks healthy. Around 300 people participated in the webinar, most of who are just getting started with backyard birds. Read more »
In the sub-Saharan nation of Mali, Dr. Boubacar M. Seck is a leader in helping to prevent highly contagious and transmissible animal diseases. As a researcher, Dr. Seck is working with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and local partners to help manage disease risk on farms and to prevent the spread of animal diseases to local and international markets. Dr. Seck’s main accomplishment has been his leadership in developing the West and Central Africa Veterinary Laboratory Network, which studies highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) and other transboundary animal diseases. For his work, USDA recently awarded a certificate of appreciation to Dr. Seck. Read more »