In the past few weeks, several cases of avian influenza have shown up in the southeastern part of the country, two this week in Georgia. Two of those cases have been Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, the others a low path strain.
Dr. Doug Meckes, State Veterinarian for North Carolina:
“We’ve identified two more cases of Avian Influenza, the most recent in Georgia. The one understanding that we all should have is that all of these cases; in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and even on up into Kentucky, are in that eastern piece of the Mississippi flyway. So, it’s not as though the disease is moving across the country, it’s moving north and south in that Mississippi flyway. So, that’s somewhat comforting to us, because we’re in the Atlantic flyway, at least from most of the mid-part of the state, out east.”
While how the AI virus has spread to these few farms remains a question, Meckes says biosecurity remains a must:
“And these have all been relatively isolated incidents, not moving from farm to farm, they’re moving, most likely from contamination from individuals moving in and out of houses, or some of these viruses move pretty readily through the air.
We continue emphasize biosecurity for all of our poultry industry. We’ve maintained that stance since 2014 and 2015 when we had the high path avian influenza all throughout the Midwest. And hopefully most of our producers will continue to fully implement their biosecurity programs, and it will remain an emphasis going forward.”
While most of this spring’s cases are low pathogenic avian influenza, Meckes explains that the cases are treated the same as a high path strain:
“The low path and high path are the same strains of the virus H7N9, and many times a low path virus will transition to a high path virus over a period of time, that’s the reason why we’ve been so vigorous in our efforts to depopulate these birds. And we actually saw this happen in Indiana in January 2016, we saw an initial case of high path avian influenza in turkey and we knew that those birds had been tested negative for any virus 10 or 12 days before, so in that period of time it postulated.
The low path virus entered the house and transitioned to high path and started bringing about mortality in the birds.”
Stringent biosecurity is the only deterrent to avian influenza at this time, and Meckes says there’s also a few things to look out for:
“Be mindful of the health status of your poultry, watch for drops in egg production if they’re layers, and decreased water consumption in others, decreased feed consumptions, changes in weight gains, but at the end of the day, it’s all about biosecurity.”
State veterinarian for North Carolina, Dr. Doug Meckes.