The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) continues efforts on many fronts to mitigate the latest outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in the U.S. The virus is carried in wild, migratory birds and typically peaks in the spring and summer months.
USDA held a stakeholder roundtable last week with poultry industry leaders and state government officials to discuss the current and future HPAI strategy and opportunities for continued collaboration.
The lessons learned since the last major HPAI outbreak are many and have reinforced the importance of biosecurity, enhanced surveillance and testing, and on-the-ground personnel to quickly respond to cases and prevent the disease’s spread. USDA has also achieved tremendous cost-savings during this outbreak – almost 50% over the last outbreak – while also working to secure regionalization agreements and keep markets open with key trading partners.
Some of the discussion points covered in the meeting included and an outbreak status. As of this month, improved biosecurity measures by the commercial industry have vastly reduced the number of detections in the commercial sector. In March 2022, there were a total of 51 commercial poultry HPAI detections. In March 2023, there were only 7 commercial poultry detections, a decrease of 85% from the previous year. Through a number of communications channels, USDA continues collaborative efforts with poultry farmers and companies on education, training and implementation of comprehensive biosecurity measures.
In their Vaccine development update, it was noted USDA’s?Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has begun avian influenza vaccination trials. ARS researchers are currently testing several vaccine candidates. Initial data from the animal study with a single dose of the vaccine are expected to be available in May 2023. The researchers expect to have two-dose vaccine challenge studies with results in June 2023.
From vaccine development to production timelines, to dissemination to flocks, there are many factors that make implementing a vaccine strategy a challenge and it will take time to deliver an effective vaccine. In a best case scenario, USDA estimates an 18-24 month timeline before having a vaccine that matches the currently circulating virus strain, is available in commercial quantities, and can be easily administered to commercial poultry.