CCE urges vigilance amid new avian flu cases

With the potential to cause large financial losses to the U.S. poultry industry, Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has re-emerged in New York state with recent cases confirmed in Dutchess, Ulster, and Suffolk counties. These flocks were euthanized to help control the spread of the virus, but poultry specialists anticipate more occurrences could be on the way.

A highly pathogenic strain of HPAI, H5N1 last hit the U.S. in 2014-15 and was considered the nation’s largest animal health emergency. Over 200 cases of the disease were found in commercial flocks, backyard flocks and wild birds. More than 50 million birds were affected and subsequently died or were euthanized on more than 200 farms in 15 states.

Wild and domestic waterfowl spread HPAI to domestic flocks. Since the 2014-15 outbreak, scientists have been monitoring wild bird populations, and waterfowl hunters send their harvested birds in for testing. New York state is located in the Atlantic Flyway – one of four migratory routes wild birds follow. As birds migrate north in the spring, positive cases in wild birds will move with them, increasing the potential for the virus to establish in poultry flocks along this route.

HPAI lives in the respiratory and/or intestinal tract of birds. It can be picked up from contact with infected feces, surfaces or through the air, though aerial transmission from farm to farm is unlikely. It can be transported on infected feed, clothing or equipment. Once on the farm, the disease is readily passed from bird to bird, quickly infecting an entire flock.

Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) poultry specialists are asking poultry producers to keep an eye out for suddenly high mortality and to be prepared to report any suspicious whole flock illness. More information on how to respond as well as frequently asked questions can be found on the CCE website.

New York Extension Disaster Education Network (NY EDEN) is a collaborative educational network based at Cornell and dedicated to educating New York residents about preventing, preparing for, and recovering from emergencies and disasters. NY EDEN is working with New York State Agriculture and Markets to provide resources and updates to poultry producers.

Contributed by CCE Livestock Specialist Amy Barkley. Media requests can be directed to ccecommunications@cornell.edu.

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