Dr. Richard Wilkes, State Veterinarian with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), says the good news is that Virginia is not one of the growing number of states with cases of avian influenza (AI) right now. The bad news is that the highly infectious disease is spreading and has entered the Mississippi flyway.
H5N2 Avian Influenza, the strain of AI that has been diagnosed on the West Coast in the past few months, has recently been detected in the Midwest, raising concern that the disease will spread to poultry on the East Coast. The disease appears to be spread by wild waterfowl. The threat of AI is of great concern to Virginia’s poultry industry.
In light of this serious situation and to prevent potential disease spread, visitors should not enter poultry operations unless absolutely necessary. For necessary visits such as bringing in feed and other supplies or providing critical services, truckers, veterinarians and even family members should take maximum biosecurity precautions such disinfecting footware, vehicle tires, equipment and anything else that enters and exits poultry houses. Poultry owners from one farm should avoid mingling with residents of other poultry farms as much as possible.
All poultry owners, both commercial and backyard flock owners, are advised to prevent exposure of poultry to wild waterfowl from fly-overs or fecal contamination of ponds and streams. “This is the time, if ever there were one, to keep your birds under cover,” said Dr. Wilkes. “Good biosecurity is the best prevention and quick response is the key to keeping the disease from spreading, should it appear here.” Any unusual increases in poultry illnesses or deaths should be reported to one of the VDACS regional offices where poultry owners may obtain disease information and assistance.
This particular strain of H5N2 does not affect people. But as a reminder, the proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 ˚F kills bacteria and viruses. People should avoid contact with sick/dead poultry or wildlife. If contact occurs, they should wash their hands with soap and water and change clothing before having any contact with healthy domestic poultry and birds.
For more information about biosecurity measures and plans, contact the State Veterinarian’s Office at 804.692.0601 or your local Office of Veterinary Services at the Regional Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory in your area. See theLaboratory Services section at www.vdacs.virginia.gov/about/directory-ais.shtml.