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Surveillance Program for Exotic Newcastle Disease and Avian Influenza

by 5m Editor
26 November 2004, at 12:00am

By F. Dustan Clark, Extension Poultry Health Veterinarian at the University of Arkansas's Avian Advice - In the last few years there have been several outbreaks of foreign poultry diseases in the United States. An outbreak of low pathogenic Avian Influenza in Virginia in 2002 resulted in the destruction of over 4 million birds. The outbreak cost the Virginia poultry industry approximately $130 million in lost revenue.

The Arkansas Surveillance Program for Exotic Newcastle Disease and Avian Influenza - By F. Dustan Clark, Extension Poultry Health Veterinarian at the University of Arkansas's Avian Advice - In the last few years there have been several outbreaks of foreign poultry diseases in the United States. An outbreak of low pathogenic Avian Influenza in Virginia in 2002 resulted in the destruction of over 4 million birds. The outbreak cost the Virginia poultry industry approximately $130 million in lost revenue.
The Author

Dr. Dustan Clark
Extension Poultry Health Veterinarian

Background

Eradication and indemnity costs associated with this outbreak were in excess of $60 million. On October 1, 2002, Exotic Newcastle disease (END) was confirmed in backyard poultry and gamefowl in southern California. The disease spread to commercial chicken flocks as well as numerous other backyard, hobby, gamefowl, and exhibition flocks, resulting in over 18,000 premises being quarantined in California.

In addition, infected flocks were detected in Nevada, Texas and Arizona resulting in quarantines in those states. The cost of eradicating the disease was over $300 million and the associated industry export losses are still being calculated. 2004 Avian Influenza (AI) outbreaks in Texas, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey were not as costly as the 2002 Virginia outbreak, but resulted in quarantines, bird eradication, and monetary losses.

Project Funding

In late 2003 the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) made available money to poultry producing states to assist with foreign poultry disease prevention and detection. This money was, in part, a result of the outbreaks of END and AI. States could obtain the money by submitting proposals outlining efforts in the state to promote Biosecurity and detect END and AI.

The Arkansas State Veterinarian and Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service Poultry Health Veterinarian developed a proposal that was funded by USDA. The program is a cooperative effort between the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission (ALPC) and the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service aimed at educating backyard, hobby and exhibition flock owners about disease prevention as well as a surveillance effort for END and AI..

Project Goals

The purpose of the program is to educate individuals on the threat of diseases and how to implement various Biosecurity measures to prevent diseases in their poultry flock. In addition, the program will test the non-commercial flocks of those who request testing to demonstrate that diseases are not silently lurking in the state of Arkansas.

Educational Efforts

Any person in the state of Arkansas who has a hobby, exhibition, backyard, or gamefowl chicken flock can participate in the project free of charge. The educational portion of the project consists of seminars for flock owners covering the importance of Biosecurity, disease recognition, and Biosecurity measures to prevent disease. The seminar covers various diseases (including END and AI) and also describes the surveillance portion of program.

Fact sheets and pamphlets are distributed at the seminar and county agents are encouraged to visit flock owners to document the number and type(s) of birds owned. Data obtained from these visits provide a better understanding of the types of birds in a county so that effective educational materials can be developed. The survey data also provides county agents with the tools needed to alert flock owners about disease threats in the area and ensure that preventative measures are in place.

In addition to the seminar presentations, the program provides educational materials to ALPC inspectors for distribution to poultry owners who sell birds at the various trade days, auctions, flea markets, and swap meets. Inspectors are also available to make farm visits.

Disease Surveillance

The program also includes actual testing of birds for Exotic Newcastle (END) and Avian Influenza (AI). Flock owners who participate in the program and have their birds tested are provided with New Castle vaccine free of charge. If a flock owner decides to have birds tested, the county agent or a livestock inspector takes samples for testing. The samples taken are vent (also called a cloacal or rectal) swabs.

A metal band is placed on the leg of the chicken and the number of the band is written on the sample. The band is for bird identification only and can be removed after the test results are reported. The collected swabs are refrigerated and immediately transported to the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission in Little Rock for testing. The swabs are tested for only two diseases (END and AI) and the PCR test (Polymerase Chain Reaction) used is extremely specific for those diseases. Once the testing is completed, a letter is sent to the owner documenting the results. The letter can be taken to the office of the county agent and Newcastle vaccine can be obtained. This vaccine is for the type of Newcastle regularly encountered in the United States, not for Exotic Newcastle. However, it was shown in the California END outbreak that birds vaccinated with similar vaccines had less mortality than non-vaccinated birds.

Expected Results and Assistance

Since there have been no reports of high mortality in flocks in Arkansas or surrounding areas, samples are not expected to be positive for either END or AI and to date all samples have been negative. Nevertheless, the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission diagnostic laboratories at Little Rock and Springdale currently offer routine diagnostic services free of charge for any hobby, exhibition, or backyard flock that has lost birds.

Program Future

Currently, the grant funding this program will expire the end of December 2004. Anyone wishing to participate in the survey, testing program, or wanting information should contact their county agent, area livestock inspector or the extension poultry veterinarian. Any person or group that wishes to have an educational seminar on disease recognition (including Exotic Newcastle and Avian Influenza), Biosecurity measures to prevent disease, and what it takes to participate in the surveillance program should contact their county agent or the extension poultry veterinarian.

Protecting Flocks from Disease with Basic Biosecurity Practices

The best way to reduce the risk of introducing the disease into your birds is by following Biosecurity practices (Additional information on Biosecurity is available at
http:// www.uark.edu/depts/posc/avianindex.html).

Some examples of such practices are:

  • Do not purchase birds that appear sick or that may have been illegally brought into the country.

  • Avoid sick birds if at all possible.

  • Practice good hygiene principles.

  • Clean and disinfect thoroughly.

  • Do not visit aviaries that have sick birds.

  • Prevent rodents and wild birds from entering the facilities where birds are kept.

  • If you visit a facility with birds that may be suspected of being infected it is important to change clothes, shower, wash your hands and thoroughly disinfect all items taken on the premise before contact with your birds.

  • Report signs of disease immediately and get a veterinary diagnosis immediately.


Source: Avian Advice - Winter 2004 - Volume 6, Number 2