First, let us talk about the problem of Avian Influenza (AI). Avian Influenza is a highly contagious disease of birds which can be devastating for poultry farmers. AI is caused by a virus which occurs commonly in healthy waterfowl, but can cause severe disease in turkeys and chickens. Once a bird is confirmed as AI positive, it will be buried onsite.
How Is AI Virus Transmitted?
There is considerable movement of poultry and individuals associated with poultry throughout the country. This is due to the nature of the poultry business where there are events hosted all around the countries. Many non-commercial or hobbyist poultry will be taking part as well out of interest. Therefore, it is everyone's responsibility to take extra precaution when in contact with another poultry person or their birds. The most common way AI virus can be transmitted is from one inflected flock to another flock by infected birds, people or equipment. The AI infected flocks secrete virus via nasal secretions and feces. Hence, if a flock is infected by AI and is being moved around, naturally, it will also transmit the AI virus to other flocks in a new area. People will often spread viruses through contaminated clothing or boots. AI can live in manure for up to 105 days, so it could easily be spread from one farm to another on soiled boots or clothing. Contaminated equipment could very well spread AI virus if they are being used in multiple location. One of the problem with stopping the transmitting of AI virus is that apparent healthy birds can be infected and transmit AI virus to other healthy flocks before symptoms are shown. That is why the ultimate prevention method is to avoid any form of contact with poultry.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
There are two forms of AI in poultry. One is highly pathogenic and severe compared to the other. The symptoms of AI are varied depending on many factors such as species of the bird or if there are other diseases present in the infected bird. To confirm AI positive, a lab test is essential. The most common AI symptoms among birds are decreased in activity, feed consumption and egg production. Others include sneezing, coughing, wet eyes and ruffled feather. Birds infected with severe or hot form of AI may have edema or accumulation of fluid in the comb and wattles, blueness of the head area and severe production drops. The less severe ones may not be as dramatic but it is still important to eradicate low pathogenic AI.
Prevention Is Key
Prevention of the introduction of AI as well as other virus should be the priority of any poultry farmers. Here are some recommended guidelines to follow:
1) Avoid bringing birds (or bring back birds) to trade shows and exhibitions during an AI outbreak.
2) All avian species can be carriers of AI. All flocks should be fenced or confined, in order to avoid contact with any wild birds, especially waterfowl
3) Introduce new stock only from sources that you are sure are free AI free.
In terms of simple biosecurity measures, here are some steps that can help to protect flocks:
1) Buy an extra pair of inexpensive rubber boots and wear only on your own premise, to avoid 'tracking in' disease.
2) Buy a long-handled brush to scrape off manure, mud or debris from tires, equipment or boots, then disinfect.
3) Mix a solution of three parts bleach to two parts water, and use it liberally to clean rubber boots and equipment brought onto your farm.
4) Make sure anyone visiting your farm disinfects their footwear as well.