Update on Premises Under Investigation for Avian Influenza in Alabama

avian influenzaResults have been received from the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa on the sample collected from a guinea fowl at the TaCo-Bet Trade Day flea market in Scottsboro, located in Jackson County, Alabama. The sample tested positive for low pathogenic H7N9 avian influenza (LPAI). The premises of origin for the guinea fowl, also located in Jackson County, Ala., is under quarantine and continued surveillance. The guinea fowl in question have been depopulated.

Testing is still ongoing of samples submitted to NVSL from the other two premises in north Alabama, the commercial breeder flock in Lauderdale County and the backyard flock in Madison County. Out of an abundance of caution, the company decided to depopulate the entire flock at the commercial breeder operation in Lauderdale County and the birds were properly buried on the farm. The depopulation was not required but a decision made by the poultry company. The entire backyard flock in Madison County was also depopulated at the owners request. According to USDA, both cases are considered presumptive low pathogenic (LPAI) avian influenza because neither flock showed signs of illness.

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) confirmed a second case of highly pathogenic H7N9 avian influenza in a commercial breeder flock in Lincoln County, Tennessee. This H7N9 strain is of North American wild bird lineage and is the same strain of avian influenza that was previously confirmed in Tennessee.  It is NOT the same as the China H7N9 virus that has impacted poultry and infected humans in Asia.  The flock of 55,000 chickens is within three kilometers of the first Tennessee case. This second HPAI case in Tennessee does not extend the control zone in Alabama.

The official Order Prohibiting Poultry Exhibitions and the Assembling of Poultry to be Sold issued by the ADAI on Tuesday, March 14, 2017, remains in effect. All poultry exhibitions, sales at regional and county fairs, festivals, swap meets, exotic sales and live bird markets, flea markets and auctions are prohibited until the order is lifted. In addition, the concentration, collection, or assembly of poultry of all types, including waterfowl and wild and exotic birds, from one or more premises, at a private or public place, for purposes of sale is also prohibited. Shipments of baby chicks from National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) approved facilities are not affected by this order.

Alabama State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Frazier reminds poultry owners to be vigilant about biosecurity. It is the department’s responsibility to protect backyard flock, exhibition, show and commercial poultry and reducing the assembly and commingling of poultry is the most effective way to do so.

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) continues to work closely with the ADAI on a joint incident response. The U.S. 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, backyard flocks, live bird markets and in migratory wild waterfowl populations.

This suspected strain of avian influenza does not pose a risk to the food supply. No affected animals entered the food chain. The risk of human infection with avian influenza during poultry outbreaks is very low.

“Our department staff is diligently working to protect the health of poultry in our state,” said Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan. “We are committed to protect the livelihoods of the many farmers in Alabama.”

Dr. Frazier is in constant communication with USDA APHIS, neighboring state veterinarians, ADAI staff and stakeholders. He encourages commercial poultry producers and backyard flock owners to observe their birds closely and continue to practice strict biosecurity measures. These include:

  • Isolating poultry from other animals
  • Wearing clothing designated for use only at the poultry house
  • Minimizing access to people and unsanitized equipment
  • Keeping the area around the poultry buildings clean and uninviting to wild birds and animals
  • Sanitizing the facility between flocks
  • Cleaning equipment entering and leaving the farm
  • Having an all-in, all-out policy regarding the placement and removal of the poultry
  • Properly disposing of bedding material and mortalities
  • Avoiding contact with migratory waterfowl

Dr. Frazier reminds all poultry owners and producers to strictly adhere to the biosecurity guidelines mentioned above.  During this time, backyard flock owners should refrain from moving birds offsite or introducing new birds. The ADAI Poultry Division is available to answer any questions concerning movement of poultry and should be notified at 334-240-6584 and/or USDA at 1-866-536-7593 if birds show unusual signs of disease (flu-like symptoms) or flocks experience unexplained mortalities.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System has created a website to assist backyard flock owners with maintaining healthy birds and to provide answers for avian influenza control.  It can be found at www.AlabamaAvianInfluenza.com.