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Planning for Avian Influenza

September 21, 2015

Baton Rouge, La. (September 21, 2015) – As fall approaches and migratory birds begin heading south, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) is conducting meetings with poultry farmers across the state to discuss food safety, public health and biosecurity in an effort to mitigate the possible spread of High Path Avian Influenza (HPAI).

“While we do not have avian influenza in Louisiana, we want our poultry growers and backyard enthusiasts to be aware of the potential threat this disease could have on the poultry industry especially as we enter into the fall migratory months,” said  Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M.

Since December 2014, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in 21 states in commercial premises, backyard flocks, captive wild birds and/or wild birds. Those states include Arkansas, California, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. There have been 232 premises which have tested positive for HPAI (211 commercial and 21 backyard). Approximately 7.5 million turkeys and 42.1 million chickens have been affected.

“As we work to control this disease from spreading, I urge our federal partners and Congress to ensure there are the proper resources available to support biosecurity protocols, depopulation and disposal of birds,” added Strain.

Over the years, Louisiana has increased its surveillance of poultry in the state. LDAF tests commercial poultry before they enter the food chain and tests backyard birds in conjunction with the National Poultry Improvement Program. LDAF personnel swab birds at 4-H livestock shows and at local swap meets. LDAF has partnered with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to increase testing of wild birds.  The LDAF also provides educational information for commercial growers and backyard hobbyists to reinforce the practice of biosecurity measures to prevent the introduction of disease into their flock and to report any spikes in sick birds or decrease in egg laying.

CDC considers the risk to people from these HPAI infections in wild birds, backyard flocks, and commercial poultry, to be low. No human infections with these viruses have been detected at this time.

Dr. Frank Welch with the Department of Health and Hospitals also offered advice for poultry farmers and backyard enthusiasts. “We strongly encourage all poultry farmers to be vaccinated against seasonal influenza to prevent co-infection with HPAI.  Such co-infections give the two viruses opportunities to exchange genes, which may result in the creation of a new flu virus. In addition, by getting vaccinated, poultry farmers can avoid confusion if they do get ill with flu-like illness this season.”

The United States Department of Agriculture is working on four key areas: preventing or reducing outbreaks; enhancing preparedness; improving and streamlining response capabilities and preparing for the potential use of AI vaccines.

No live poultry or poultry products may enter Louisiana from an area designated as a HPAI infected zone until the official quarantine has been released.

Poultry includes chickens, turkeys, quail, pheasants, peafowl, guineas, chukars and other partridge, grouse, ratites and domestic ducks.

As a reminder, poultry should be handled properly and the cooking of poultry and eggs should be at a temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit which kills bacteria and viruses.

These virus strains can travel in wild birds without them appearing sick.  People should avoid contact with sick/dead poultry or wildlife. If contact occurs, wash your hands with soap and water and change clothing before having any contact with healthy domestic poultry and birds.

All bird owners, whether commercial producers or backyard poultry enthusiasts, should continue to practice good biosecurity, prevent contact between their birds and wild birds, and to report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to state/federal officials, either through your state veterinarian at 225-925-3980, the LDAF toll-free Hot Line at 1-866-927-2476 or through USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593.  Additional information on biosecurity for backyard flocks can be found at