Avian Influenza (LPAI) in Missouri Turkeys

March 12th, 2018 9:48 AM

While there is high pathogenicity avian influenza (HPAI) present in other parts of the world (including Korea) during early 2018, North America has been spared for now.  However, there is an emerging problem with low pathogenicity avian influenza (LPAI) in Missouri turkeys at the moment.  Currently, it’s well-contained, and this kind of AI is not a threat to people.  See: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/missouri/articles/2018-03-08/missouri-turkey-farm-quarantined-after-bird-flu-detected

Please be aware that avian viruses can spread via migrating wild birds.  For this reason, as you look forward to warmer weather and seeing ducks and geese winging their way north, please consider limiting the exposure of your flocks to wild birds (especially waterfowl).  Try limiting where your birds range, and pay special attention to areas where there are feeders and waterers (potential magnets for wild birds).  You may wish to use netting to keep wild birds out, and your birds in.  As well, pastured birds can be housed at night in moveable coops that have controllable “bird-doors” to keep wild birds, rodents and predators out. 

Do you have some useful experience re biosecure poultry housing designs to share?  Please contact anne.lichtenwalner@maine.edu

CDC Offers Tips to Owners of Backyard Flocks: How to Reduce the Chance of Salmonella Infection

July 27th, 2017 9:53 AM

Live poultry, such as chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys, often carry germs such as Salmonella. After you touch a bird, or anything in the area where birds live and roam, wash your hands so you don’t get sick! Read more at the CDC’s Keeping Backyard Poultry web page.

APHIS Issues Epidemiology Report for Avian Influenza Affected Poultry in Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, and Georgia

June 23rd, 2017 2:15 PM

USDA APHIS logoThe United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is releasing the epidemiology report for affected HPAI and LPAI poultry cases this spring. This kind of analysis helps to identify how the disease spread and how to help prevent it in the future. APHIS has made great strides in HPAI emergency response since the 2014-2015 outbreak. Rapid response times and a 24-hour depopulation goal of confirmed HPAI cases has helped minimize the spread of disease. Vigilant biosecurity practices remains a top priority to protect domestic poultry from the disease.

On March 4, 2017, APHIS’ National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) confirmed a case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H7N9 on a commercial broiler breeder farm in Tennessee. A second case of HPAI H7N9 in Tennessee was confirmed on March 15, 2017 on another commercial broiler breeder farm. This virus is NOT the same as the China H7N9 virus that emerged in 2013 and impacted poultry and humans in Asia. Additionally, APHIS found H7 low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) in six backyard flocks — three in Alabama, two in Tennessee, and one in Kentucky. APHIS also found H7 LPAI in six commercial broiler breeder flocks — one in Tennessee, three in Alabama, one in Kentucky and one in Georgia. Following these avian influenza findings, APHIS joined forces with the affected states and the poultry industry to complete a series of epidemiologic, genetic and wildlife investigations.

In the report, APHIS outlines the findings to date, which include:

  • The identification of a closely related 2016 H7N9 LPAI virus in a Blue Wing Teal in Wyoming that was likely a precursor to the 2017 H7N9. The Blue Wing Teal was part of a live-bird banding effort from Wildlife Services wild bird surveillance program.  
  • Results of genetic analyses determined that all H7N9 viruses detected from this event are of North American wild bird lineage.
  • The comparison of the HPAI and LPAI H7N9 viruses showed they are highly similar and therefore likely that the LPAI virus was first introduced into commercial poultry and later mutated to HPAI
  • Initial results from wild bird samples on infected premises have not confirmed Influenza A virus (IAV), however there is limited evidence from the samples that some birds may have been previously exposed to it.
  • Genetic and epidemiologic evidence suggests the possibility of more than a single introduction of virus from wild birds to commercial poultry with limited lateral spread from farm to farm.
  • Risk factors included rodents and wild mammals near barns, housing conditions, and biosecurity protocol breaches that could bring the virus from the environment into the barns.

APHIS will continue to collect and analyze data to help refine our prevention, detection, and response efforts based on the best available science and lessons learned. View the entire June 22, 2017 Report (PDF).

March 31, 2017 Update on Avian Influenza

March 31st, 2017 2:58 PM

“H7 avian influenza has been identified in Georgia; you can find the link to the News Release here. Please refer to the USDA-VS newsroom link, Tennessee (TN), Alabama (AL) and Kentucky (KY) Department of Agriculture websites for updates on the AI status in their respective states.

While the case has been identified in a state that resides partially in the eastern flyway, the case was identified in the extreme western part of the state and is not yet a concern for impacting our flyway. Keep in mind this is a rapidly evolving situation and this can change at a moment’s notice.

Again, this is a great reminder to be vigilant about biosecurity and remind your producers to report unexplained sick birds.” — Maine State Veterinarian Justin Bergeron


What not to do! Unlike the bird in this picture, keep your birds separate from wild birds. Photo by Anne Lichtenwalner.

Please be aware that wildlife agencies also survey for Avian Influenza in wild birds, and that low pathogenicity AI does occur sometimes in wild birds in our region. It is difficult to do, but it is essential to keep your birds separate from wild birds: separate from water, feed, dust or feces that wild birds have contaminated. If you lose birds suddenly and would like our to test for AI, please let the state vet know and also contact the University of Maine Animal Health Lab at 207.581.2788.

March 20, 2017 Update on Avian Influenza

March 20th, 2017 2:28 PM

flock of chickens

Photo by Donna Coffin

Avian influenza continues to be present in the US at low prevalence, and updates on the US and the international situation can be found at these sites:

The most recent isolation was from a bird swap in Alabama; this was apparently a low-pathogenicity strain (LPAI) from a guinea fowl. The USDA has issued a “stop movement” order to try to contain the situation in that area of Alabama. There is still concern about containment of a recent highly-pathogenic strain (HPAI) that was detected in Tennessee, and although an additional case of AI on a different Tennessee farm was determined to be LPAI, similarly stringent control measures were taken by state animal health officials.

Due to the large impact of either HPAI or LPAI on regional farms, it’s critically important to be very careful to prevent AI from spreading from wild waterfowl (that may carry AI, but not become sick from it) to your birds. Follow good biosecurity practices, and help protect both your own and others’ flocks by reporting unusual illness in your birds to your state’s livestock authorities.

Migratory Bird Patterns: Animation from Cornell Lab of Ornithology

March 6th, 2017 9:34 AM

Canada geese

Photo by C. Eves-Thomas

Curious about why bird diseases may show up in a seasonal pattern? See Citizen Science Reveals Annual Bird Migrations Across Continents, courtesy eBird and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which helps illustrate how avian influenza may show up in the US in spring and fall. Wild birds are great travelers, and Avian Influenza virus may spread among them during their breeding seasons (when they aggregate). Because many of these wild birds may carry the virus, but not be ill with it, there is a risk that wild birds can make our domestic birds ill. Please help keep wild birds, and domestic birds, healthy by KEEPING THEM APART. This includes water and feed sources. We refer to this practice as biosecurity, and it’s a simple and powerful tool to prevent disease.

Initial Case of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in the US: 2017

March 6th, 2017 8:14 AM

March 5, 2017, Washington — The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic H7 avian influenza (HPAI) of North American wild bird lineage in a commercial chicken breeder flock in Lincoln County, Tennessee. This is the first confirmed case of HPAI in commercial poultry in the United States this year. The flock of 73,500 is located within the Mississippi flyway. Samples from the affected flock, which experienced increased mortality, were tested at Tennessee’s Kord Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory and confirmed at the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa. Virus isolation is ongoing, and NVSL expects to characterize the neuraminidase protein, or “N-type”, of the virus within 48 hours.

APHIS is working closely with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture on a joint incident response. State officials quarantined the affected premises and birds on the property will be depopulated to prevent the spread of the disease. Birds from the flock will not enter the food system.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is working directly with poultry workers at the affected facility to ensure that they are taking the proper precautions to prevent illness and contain disease spread. As a reminder, the proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 ˚F kills bacteria and viruses.

As part of existing avian influenza response plans, Federal and State partners are working jointly on additional surveillance and testing in the nearby area. The United States has the strongest AI surveillance program in the world, and USDA is working with its partners to actively look for the disease in commercial poultry operations, live bird markets and in migratory wild bird populations.

USDA will be informing the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) as well as international trading partners of this finding. USDA also continues to communicate with trading partners to encourage adherence to OIE standards and minimize trade impacts. OIE trade guidelines call on countries to base trade restrictions on sound science and, whenever possible, limit restrictions to those animals and animal products within a defined region that pose a risk of spreading disease of concern.

These virus strains can travel in wild birds without them appearing sick. People 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.

All bird owners, whether commercial producers or backyard enthusiasts, should continue to practice good biosecurity, prevent contact between their birds and wild birds, and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials, either through their state veterinarian or through USDA’s toll-free number at 1.866.536.7593. Additional information on biosecurity for can be found at www.aphis.usda.gov/animalhealth/defendtheflock.

Additional background: Avian influenza (AI) is caused by an influenza type A virus which can infect poultry (such as chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, domestic ducks, geese and guinea fowl) and is carried by free flying waterfowl such as ducks, geese and shorebirds. AI viruses are classified by a combination of two groups of proteins: hemagglutinin or “H” proteins, of which there are 16 (H1–H16), and neuraminidase or “N” proteins, of which there are 9 (N1–N9). Many different combinations of “H” and “N” proteins are possible. Each combination is considered a different subtype, and can be further broken down into different strains. AI viruses are further classified by their pathogenicity (low or high); the ability of a particular virus strain to produce disease in domestic chickens.


Update on Avian Influenza: November, 2016

November 30th, 2016 1:20 PM

free range chickenThere are no US outbreaks of AI at the moment, but the situation in Europe and Asia is troublesome. The world Organization for Animal Health (OIE) keeps a running tally of where/when highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI; H5 and H7 serotypes) occurs. As of now, they list 12 European/Northern Asian countries with current (November 2016) reported outbreaks of H5N8 HPAI. The affected countries are Austria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Sweden, and Switzerland. There are also other non-European countries (India, Israel, Iran) with the same strain of HPAI. As well, other strains of HPAI are currently present in Algeria, (H7N1), Japan, and South Korea (H5N6). Activity to contain and control HPAI is ongoing, via eradication, cleaning, and confirmation of clearance. Migratory waterfowl are important as reservoirs of HPAI worldwide, but farm-to-farm spread has been thought to be due to human error, and occasionally due to airborne transmission from fields visited by waterfowl. As ever, prevention of spread by the use of biosecurity practices is paramount; see USDA’s Biosecurity for Birds to review.

Horse pasture management seminar at Witter Center

August 30th, 2016 10:39 AM

Maintaining horse pastures is the focus of a half-day seminar for horse owners and caretakers on Saturday, Sept. 17, 9 a.m.–noon at the University of Maine J.F. Witter Teaching and Research Center, 160 University Farm Road, Old Town.

Topics include improving the nutritional quality of horse pastures, innovative grazing strategies, weed control, managing heavy-use areas, and preventing soil erosion and water pollution. Speakers will include university faculty from the Northeast with active programs in equine pasture management. The seminar is sponsored by University of Maine Cooperative Extension and the J.F. Witter Teaching and Research Center.

The seminar is free; a $5 donation per person is suggested. For more information or to request a disability accommodation, contact Melissa Libby, 207.581.2788, melissa.libby1@maine.edu  or Robert Causey, 207.922.7475, rcausey@maine.edu. More information also is available online.

Livestock 101 Field Day April 2

March 17th, 2016 1:14 PM

Basic practices appropriate for small-scale livestock producers and 4-H project leaders will be the focus of a Livestock 101 Field Day from 11:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. Saturday, April 2, at the University of Maine J. Franklin Witter Teaching & Research Center, 160 University Farm Road, Old Town.

The free public program will demonstrate hands-on methods for those starting out or thinking about raising livestock. Potential topics include measuring livestock vital signs, grain and feed quality assessment, sheep hoof trimming, poultry and sheep handling, injection techniques and biosecurity for small farms.

Speakers include staff from program co-sponsors UMaine Extension; UMaine School of Food and Agriculture; the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry; and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

Preregistration is required online. For more information, to register by phone or to request a disability accommodation, contact Melissa Libby, 581.2788, 800.287.7170 (in Maine), melissa.libby1@maine.edu.