January 2019 Update on Avian Diseases

There continue to be problems with Newcastle Disease in the West, with recently reported suspect cases in Utah, and spread of the disease from backyard poultry to several commercial farms in southern California.  In a recent post by Simon Shane, the need for effective biosecurity measures to protect poultry from this serious disease was emphasized.  The following is from his Egg-News.com editorial of January 18, 2019:

“There has been far too much complacency and overt self-delusion by owners and authorities concerning investment in Structural biosecurity and hence supervision of Operational components of biosecurity for commercial laying operations. There are relatively new complexes in California housing up to two million hens and associated pullets. A capital investment of $100 million in infrastructure, housing, equipment and a packing plant justifies a commensurate expenditure on structural biosecurity. The basic capital investments should include:

  • Fencing of the perimeter encompassing housing for flocks. Simply drawing lines on a site plan is an exercise in futility since there is no physical barrier to prevent uncontrolled entry of unauthorized persons or conversely to control the entry of authorized persons including employees shortcutting around biosecurity installations.
  • Blacktop or alternative impervious roads with drains are required within a site for service vehicles. Hardened roads allow natural decontamination by sunlight and other measures. Pathogens will persist in mud mixed with biological material and will be tracked into houses.
  • All personnel entering or leaving a designated live-bird area must shower in a purpose-built biosecurity module. Makeshift facilities including modified cargo containers may be inexpensive but they are invariably ineffective. “Personnel” includes owners, managers, supervisors, maintenance staff, house workers and crews for transfer, depletion, vaccination and beak-trim.
  • Functional and effective vehicle wash installations including a drive-through spray race and dip should be installed at the main entrance to the complex or other points of entry as required.
  • An on-site laundry facility is recommended for the biosecurity module to process Company-supplied clothing appropriate to gender and climate

It is axiomatic that effective Operational biosecurity is impossible to implement without investment in Structural facilities. Any compromise that neglects the known principles of the epidemiology of specific pathogens of concern or fails to consider the financial implications of risks and consequences is simply an exercise in ‘virus-roulette.’”

In Maine, farms vary greatly in size, and communicable diseases can be easily spread to any flock by movement of personnel, dirty tires on delivery vehicles, and certainly by wild birds.  Even a small flock can amplify disease, increasing the likelihood of infection of more, and larger, farms.  While Mr. Shane’s comments are meant for commercial farms, the concepts are important for any size of farm.  Please help reduce the changes of serious livestock disease by following basic biosecurity guidelines (see previous posts for USDA links on biosecurity).