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USDA Confirms Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Florida

USDA Confirms Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Florida

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in a non-commercial backyard flock (non-poultry) in Seminole County, Florida.

Samples from the flock were tested at the Bronson Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, part of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, and confirmed at the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa.

APHIS is working closely with state animal health officials in Florida on a joint incident response. State officials quarantined the affected premises, and birds on the property will be depopulated to prevent the spread of the disease. Birds from the flock will not enter the food system.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the public health risk associated with these avian influenza detections in birds remains low. As a reminder, the proper handling and cooking of all poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 ˚F is recommended as a general food safety precaution.

As part of existing avian influenza response plans, Federal and State partners are working jointly on additional surveillance and testing in areas around the affected flocks. The United States has the strongest AI surveillance program in the world, and USDA is working with its partners to actively look for the disease in commercial poultry operations, live bird markets and in migratory wild bird populations.

Anyone involved with poultry production from the small backyard to the large commercial producer should review their biosecurity activities to assure the health of their birds. APHIS has materials about biosecurity, including videos, checklists, and a toolkit available at:

USDA will report these findings to the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) as well as international trading partners. USDA also continues to communicate with trading partners to encourage adherence to WOAH standards and minimize trade impacts. WOAH trade guidelines call on countries to base trade restrictions on sound science and, whenever possible, limit restrictions to those animals and animal products within a defined region that pose a risk of spreading disease of concern. WOAH trade guidelines also call on member countries to not impose bans on the international trade of poultry commodities in response to notifications in non-poultry.

APHIS will continue to announce the first case of HPAI in commercial and backyard flocks detected in a State but will not announce subsequent detections in the State. All cases in commercial and backyard flocks will be listed on the APHIS website at

In addition to practicing good biosecurity, all bird owners should prevent contact between their birds and wild birds and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials, either through their state veterinarian or through APHIS’ toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593. APHIS urges producers to consider bringing birds indoors when possible to further prevent exposures. The Animal Health Protection Act authorizes APHIS to provide indemnity payments to producers for birds and eggs that must be depopulated during a disease response. APHIS also provides compensation for disposal activities and virus elimination activities.

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Chicken litter can be an excellent fertilizer! It makes good use of something you may already have on your farm. You can use it yourself or make extra cash selling it to others. It works so well as a fertilizer because it contains the three nutrients that are included in most conventional fertilizers: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

If chicken litter makes such a great fertilizer, why are some states banning its use? Well, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Check out this video to learn about the major risk you should consider before using litter as a fertilizer, and some methods to mitigate this risk.

So, what's the downside of using chicken litter as fertilizer? Litter is super rich in nutrients. When it rains, excess nutrients, which may be abundant, run off of the farms on which they are placed or stored.

Where do they go? Into nearby bodies of water. When marine environments face an excess of nutrients from runoff, eutrophication occurs. This means that marine plant life becomes overgrown and then dies, a process that takes a lot of dissolved oxygen, or D.O., out of the water. So much, in fact, that fish and other marine animals die due to lack of D.O. This can throw off entire ecosystems and impact the quality of our drinking water.

All this just because of some nutrient runoff from chicken litter fertilizer? Really? …Really. But this doesn't mean you can never use litter as fertilizer- It just means that you have to be smart about it.

We have some tips on how to prevent fertilizer runoff during storage. Keep the litter covered. Sheds or stackhouses are great methods for this, but plastic sheeting can also be used. Covering litter prevents it from losing too much of its nitrogen value. Make sure drainage does not come into contact with the storage pile. Add a bottom liner under the storage pile to prevent leaching. This is especially important to people whose properties are on wells.

When using litter as fertilizer, follow a few general guidelines when planning your fertilization program: Apply fertilizers in the proper amount for your area and crop type Apply at the right time of year and with the right method for your farm Use conservation drainage practices Ensure year-round ground cover Plant field buffers Manage livestock access to streams