ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) is urging all poultry farmers to remain vigilant and practice enhanced biosecurity on their farms after U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed findings of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in wild birds—two in Colleton County, South Carolina and one in Hyde County, North Carolina.
“The recent findings serve as a timely reminder for all poultry farmers to remain vigilant in their biosecurity practices,” said Secretary Joe Bartenfelder. “This applies to everyone from commercial poultry growers to backyard flock owners. It is critical that everyone takes proper steps to isolate their birds and wild waterfowl migrating along the Atlantic flyway.”
During this time of year, migratory waterfowl moving through Maryland present a heightened risk for HPAI, which is a potentially devastating disease for poultry operations. HPAI is caused by an influenza type A virus, which can infect poultry (chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quails, domestic ducks, geese, and guinea fowl) and is carried by free flying waterfowl such as ducks, geese and shorebirds.
Growers are urged to follow these minimum guidelines to maintain a sanitary, biosecure premise:
- Restrict access to poultry by posting “Restricted Access” signage, securing the area with a gate, or both.
- Take steps to ensure that contaminated materials on the ground are not transported into the poultry growing house or area.
- Provide the following items to anyone entering or leaving any area where poultry are kept:
- Footbaths and foot mats with disinfectant;
- Boot washing and disinfectant station;
- Footwear change or foot covers.
- Cover and secure feed to prevent wild birds, rodents or other animals from accessing it.
- Cover and properly contain carcasses, used litter, or other disease-containing organic materials to prevent wild birds, rodents or other animals from accessing them and to keep them from being blown around by wind.
- Allow MDA to enter the premises during normal working hours to inspect your biosecurity and sanitation practices.
- Report any unusual bird deaths or sudden increases in very sick birds to the MDA Animal Health Program at 410-841-5810 or after-hours to 410-841-5971. Also contact the USDA at 866-536-7593.
- Read up about HPAI and biosecurity measures on the MDA website.
USDA APHIS’ website for its Defend the Flock program has many valuable resources available for poultry owners, including a variety of instructional videos, to help mitigate the risk of HPAI on their operation.
For more information on avian influenza, please visit the department’s website.
–Jason Schellhardt, Maryland Department of Agriculture