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A disease called the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) affected a number of farms in the Midwest last year. While no human case of HPAI virus has been detected and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk to people from HPAI infection to be low, domestic poultry are veryy susceptible to HPAI H5 virus, which can spread rapidly from bird to bird and typically results in high mortality rates. The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM) encourages poultry owners, producers, and enthusiasts to prepare for HPAI, which is expected to impact the East Coast by the spring of 2016.
The disease is most commonly spread to domestic poultry by infected waterfowl, through direct contact or contact with droppings, during migration periods. Therefore, the entire Northeast, including Vermont, should prepare for the possibility that an outbreak of HPAI could affect our region, and poultry producers and poultry owners should be familiar with the disease, how it is spread, and what preparedness efforts they can engage in now.
All poultry owners, whether they are backyard hobbyists or commercial producers, should evaluate their farms for risk factors that could contribute to avian influenza occurring on their farms. They include:
Poultry owners should fill out and return to VAAFM the Producer Preparedness: Biosecurity Audit Form, which details information that will be required for farms to move poultry and livestock, equipment, and production-related conveyances on and off of the property in the event of an HPAI outbreak. Please returned the form to VAAFM via email (email@example.com), fax (802-828-5983) or U.S. mail (VAAFM Animal Health Section, 116 State Street, Montpelier, VT 05620).
All poultry owners, regardless of size and business structure, should engage in the following disease preparedness measures:
Commercial poultry producers should take additional proactive steps to increase the likelihood of continued business profitability in the event of a disease outbreak, such as:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections to be low. No human case from these HPAI H5 viruses has been detected in the United States or internationally. Influenza in poultry does not constitute a food safety risk.
All bird owners, whether commercial producers or backyard enthusiasts, are encouraged 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 the Vermont Agency of Agriculture (802-828-2421) or through USDA’s toll-free number (866-536-7593).