HPAI found in Delaware poultry flock

Approximately 1.2 million birds will be depopulated.

Krissa Welshans, Livestock Editor

February 23, 2022

3 Min Read
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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 commercial poultry flock in New Castle County, Delaware, the first commercial poultry case for the state since 2004. The state is home to a large poultry industry, with a chicken house capacity of 64 million chickens reported in 2020. Broiler production annually accounts for over 75% of Delaware's value of agricultural production.

Delaware Department of Agriculture said testing confirmed avian influenza after a farm showed increased mortality recently. USDA said samples from the flock were tested at the University of Delaware’s Allen Laboratory in Newark, part of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, and confirmed at the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa. APHIS is working closely with state animal health officials in Delaware on a joint incident response. State officials quarantined the affected premises, and the approximately 1.2 million birds on the property will be depopulated to prevent the spread of the disease. Birds from the flock will not enter the food system. 

“We have taken immediate action to contain this disease and will continue to work with poultry owners, the industry, and our laboratory partners to protect against its spread,” said Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael Scuse. “This appears to be an isolated case, with no reports of disease among our chicken industry. Delmarva poultry is safe to eat, and consumers can be confident in the safety of their food.”

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.

USDA said 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 here.

It is not known exactly how the virus was contracted, but Scuse encouraged all poultry flock owners to follow the strictest biosecurity on their farms to prevent the spread of the disease. Those steps include:

  • Limit, monitor, and record any movement of people, vehicles or animals on or off your farm.

  • Permit only essential workers and vehicles to enter the farm to limit the chances of bringing the virus from an outside source.

  • Avoid visiting other poultry farms and any unnecessary travel off the farm.

  • Disinfect equipment, vehicles, footwear, and other items that come into contact with flocks.

  • Keep your flock away from wild or migratory birds, especially waterfowl.

  • Isolate any ill animals and contact your veterinarian.

USDA will report these findings to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) as well as international trading partners. USDA also continues to communicate with trading partners to encourage adherence to OIE standards and minimize trade impacts. OIE 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.


About the Author(s)

Krissa Welshans

Livestock Editor

Krissa Welshans grew up on a crop farm and cow-calf operation in Marlette, Michigan. Welshans earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Michigan State University and master’s degree in public policy from New England College. She and her husband Brock run a show cattle operation in Henrietta, Texas, where they reside with their son, Wynn.

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