Avian influenza confirmed in two Alabama flocks
Posted on Nov 16, 2023 at 18:21 PM
The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) and USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in two commercial flocks, resulting in euthanization of approximately 344,000 bids.
One of the flocks was at a commercial pullet farm in Marshall County, Alabama, about 80 miles west of Rome, Georgia, the ADAI announced on Nov. 3. A total of 47,900 birds were euthanized at this location.
Samples from the Marshall County flock were tested at the Alabama State Diagnostic Laboratory, part of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, and confirmed positive at the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa.
The viral disease was also confirmed in a commercial upland gamebird farm in Chilton County on Oct. 27. Chilton County is in the middle of the state between Birmingham and Montgomery. All poultry (a total of 296,500 pheasants, quail, ducks and chukars) on this premise were euthanized.
According to published reports, Alabama officials are considering requesting assistance from the National Guard.
As part of existing avian influenza response plans, Alabama and federal partners are working on additional surveillance and testing in areas around the affected flocks. The United States has the strongest AI surveillance program in the world. ADAI and USDA are actively monitoring for the disease in commercial poultry operations, backyard flocks, live bird markets and in migratory wild bird populations.
HPAI is considered low risk to human health according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, but is highly contagious to other birds, including commercial and backyard flocks of poultry. While the virus is also not considered a food safety threat, infected birds do not enter the food supply.
Poultry and egg production are the largest agricultural sector in Georgia, accounting for more than $4 billion worth of farm gate value annually. The Georgia Department of Agriculture recommends the following measures to protect flocks from exposure:
• Moving birds with outdoor access indoors or covering their enclosures to reduce exposure to wild birds that might be shedding the virus;
• Review biosecurity practices with a veterinarian or Extension Agent, or
• Visit the GDA avian influenza webpage for biosecurity resources.
Poultry flock owners are encouraged to closely observe their birds and report a sudden increase in the number of sick birds or bird deaths to the Avian Influenza Hotline at 770-766-6850.
HPAI symptoms include:
• Sudden increase in bird deaths in your flock;
• sneezing, gasping for air, coughing and nasal discharge;
• watery and green diarrhea;
• lack of energy and poor appetite
• drop in egg production or soft or thin-shelled, misshaped eggs
• swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles, and hocks
• purple discoloration of the wattles, comb and legs
• ruffled feathers, listlessness and lethargy.
Commercial and backyard flock owners are urged to increase biosecurity measures to protect their operations from HPAI.
Biosecurity measures can include:
• Cleaning vehicles and equipment;
• limiting unnecessary visitors;
• sanitizing shoes in clean foot baths;
• changing clothes upon contact with birds and more.
People should avoid contact with sick/dead poultry or wildlife. If contact occurs, wash your hands and change clothing before having any contact with poultry and wild birds. For information on biosecurity measures, visit http://healthybirds.aphis.usda.gov.
For more information about HPAI or detections click here.