By Emily Thompson
The largest animal health emergency in U.S. history occurred from December 2014 to June 2015. Avian influenza spread across several states, including Arkansas, wiping out millions of birds according to the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
Avian Influenza is an infectious disease in birds caused by type A influenza viruses. It is most often carried by migratory birds like ducks and geese that show few signs of the disease. It is highly contagious and often fatal to domestic species of birds like chickens and turkeys, according to the USDA website.
There haven’t been any reported cases of AI in Arkansas so far in 2017. However, it is still important for poultry farmers to keep it and biosecurity in mind to help try and help prevent another outbreak.
University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Poultry Health Veterinarian Dustan Clark gives advice on biosecurity and protecting your flock from AI.
- Have a dedicated set of clothing for the pen. This is an important part of biosecurity. All farm personal should have a dedicated set of clothes to wear while on the farm from boots to hats and gloves. This clothing should stay on the farm at all times, meaning anyone working with the birds should completely change out of them and clean up before leaving.
- Limit visitors. A visitor could unknowingly spread the illness to your flock, so limit access to your farm or poultry facility. When there are visitors, they should disinfect and clean their shoes. Consider having a dedicated pair of boots for you and your guests to be worn only in the pen.
- Know the signs of AI. AI can manifest itself in both changes in behavior and in physical symptoms. A few of the early symptoms of AI include: a drop in egg production, loss of appetite, sneezing, diarrhea and huddling.
- When in doubt, seek help. As a poultry owner, you are with your birds daily and are, therefore, one of the best equipped to identify when something isn’t right with your flock. If you spot a symptom, notice a change in behavior or just have a feeling that something isn’t quite right with your poultry, contact a veterinarian immediately. If a bird in your flock dies, consider sending it to your state or university laboratory for testing.