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Avian Influenza – What does it mean for the producer?

by 5m Editor
6 November 2006, at 12:00am

By Andy Deeks, Global Marketing Leader, DuPont Animal Health Solutions - Over the last year or so the threat of avian influenza has never been far away from the minds of journalists, the poultry press, Government thinking or producers worries.

The media in many forms is straining under the weight of information, opinion, warnings and recommendations on how to prevent or prepare for the inevitable - a human pandemic of H5N1 influenza.

But what does this mean for the producer?

The simple answer is to be prepared, with an attempt at so called "contingency planning". This sort of planning can take place at many levels from an international perspective, national Government action, integrated company approaches but equally importantly actions by the individual flock farmer.

The perceptions and actions may be different in scale at all these levels but there are a number of common threads that need to be considered:

  1. Vigilance. Early detection of the first introduction of any notifiable disease into a country or region gives the most effective opportunity for early control. This can include national or regional flock monitoring at one level down to more simply recognising the signs of health and ill health at the individual flock level, with prompt reporting and investigation of anything suspicious.

  2. Effective biosecurity. Biosecurity is one of those words that has found its way into the vocabulary of all of us - but it does not have to be rocket science or be beyond the reach of any of us to do something constructive and effective. It is a mixture of science and art. The art is to take notice of the science and tailor procedures to your particular premises. Take specialist advice and identify all the chinks in your defences where virus might enter your farm or have contact with your birds.

  3. Stock up with independently proven effective biosecurity products such as multipurpose cleaners and disinfectants. Most poultry premises have a well developed plan for the use of products and procedures for terminal cleansing and disinfection of their sites. Procedures during the life of the flock - so called continuous biosecurity - are often less well developed with many producers only stepping up measures when a crisis develops or significant disease threats appear elsewhere. There are two major flaws in this approach - firstly the lag effect in attempting to respond to developing situations in getting in the necessary products and implementing new measures. The second is the fact that your farm might be the first case! So plan ahead, stockpile effective cleaning and disinfection products, and prepare your emergency disease control programme well in advance.

  4. Take specialist advice. However well you think you know your farm, take time to listen to advice from your vet and biosecurity specialist to identify the weak points on your farm and PLUG THE GAPS.

In summary, some of the important aspects of setting up a biosecurity contingency plan must include:
  1. Choice of high quality efficacious, easy to use disinfectants, with adequate emergency stocks on site
  2. Implementation of an effective external biosecurity programme aimed at addressing the known risk factors:
    • Reduce vehicle and visitor movements.
    • Provide shower facilities prior to entry to high value stock
    • Cleanse and disinfect all vehicles and equipment which must enter a site.
    • Effective use of protective clothing, boots and foot dips.
    • Use hand sanitisers before and after handling birds
    • Exclusion of wild birds from houses to prevent contact with commercial stock (difficult/impossible in extensive free range systems).
    • Clean up all feed spillages under feed bins to discourage wild birds.
    • Avoid standing water, and do not use surface water which may be faecally contaminated by wild birds as a source of drinking water for commercial stock.

To Conclude

The risk of introduction of the potentially devastating H5N1 avian influenza virus into poultry-producing areas around the world is likely to remain with us for some time.

Reducing the likelihood of infection, as well as eventually bringing this global threat under control, will depend on effective contingency planning and efficiently applied biosecurity programmes.

Achieving these goals depends on a coordinated approach of continuous routine biosecurity, using proven effective products which are applied properly. DuPont is currently assisting Government and Veterinary bodies in the development and implementation of biosecurity programmes, in addition to providing training for the appropriate use of its biosecurity products and equipment including the disinfectant Virkon® S.

For further information on DuPont's comprehensive range of biosecurity products and services, visit www.ahs.dupont.com.

October 2006