Biosecurity limits avian influenza impact – AgUpdate

Much of the Midwest continues to battle a record-setting outbreak of high pathogenic avian influenza.
Through early December, over 53 million birds in 47 states have been infected with the disease, with just under one-third of those in Iowa, according to USDA numbers.
Avian Influenza outbreaks have been reported in the counties marked in the map above in the Midwest. 
This outbreak has been more widespread than the previous event in 2015, says Dawn Koltes, an assistant professor of animal science at Iowa State University.
This came despite an improved protocol developed since 2015.
“The Midwest was better prepared for the current outbreak of High Pathogenic Avian Influenza from a biosecurity and response preparedness standpoint,” she says. “We have seen evidence of how biosecurity practices have kept outbreaks limited to point introductions compared to house to house spread. This evidence comes from several groups that have been tracking the virus by looking at small changes in the virus genome from positive flocks and wild species.
“Through this tracking, they have observed that the virus introduced into flocks that test positive are similar to those isolated to those of neighboring migratory birds. Additionally, they have observed that if two houses break on the same farm, the isolated viruses from each house are often different from each other suggesting that this is transmitted this through environment and not the workers who may be going from house to house.”
Koltes says that additional technologies, such as BirdCast and USDA reporting programs, are being used to monitor and track bird migrations and more quickly help producers that were affected, respectively.
“While we have methods to reduce transmission of High Pathogenic Avian Influenza into poultry houses, we have not identified ways to 100% completely prevent it from entering poultry houses,” she says.
Improving biosecurity likely helped prevent this outbreak from being even more significant.
“If there is a silver lining to the 2022 outbreak, we can thank the efforts of teaching biosecurity over the last six years, because there has been a small percentage of cases that can be linked to farm-to-farm spread,” says Abby Schuft, Extension educator with the University of Minnesota based in Willmar.
“Biosecurity is proving to work in that respect. However, the enormous impact wild waterfowl have brought to this outbreak is a brand new challenge. Biosecurity is failing somewhere because the virus is still entering barns and coops, or there are routes of introduction that are not yet known. Backyard and small flocks are another new challenge in the 2022 outbreak, making up more than 57% of the cases nationwide (as of December 20.”
Koltes says while it may be impossible to prevent an outbreak, work needs to continue to minimize any impact.
“One of the major factors that affect High Pathogenic Avian Influenza outbreaks is the migration of migratory birds,” she says. “As a result, there are efforts to identify different methods reduce or prevent stopover sites near production houses, but not to shift this migratory pattern outside of their normal flyway.
“Some of these methods used include keeping feed spillage cleaned up and waterways empty so waterfowl stop in areas away from the houses or using lights or sounds that would make areas around the houses unfavorable for a stopover site.”
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Jeff DeYoung is editor and livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.
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Avian Influenza outbreaks have been reported in the counties marked in the map above in the Midwest. 
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