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Virginia reports first HPAI case in commercial poultry

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Turkey flock is first commercial poultry operation to report detection in 2023.

Reporting the first commercial poultry case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in 2023, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has confirmed the state’s first positive case of the virus in a flock of 25,300 commercial turkeys in Rockingham County. This is the third reported case in Virginia but the first in commercial poultry. The latest case brings the total number of birds affected by the virus in the 2022/2023 outbreak to 57.89 million birds.

Samples from the flock tested positive at the VDACS Regional Animal Health Laboratory in Harrisonburg, part of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network. Samples were also sent to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa for further confirmation.

VDACS said it is working closely with the Virginia Poultry Federation, and USDA APHIS on a joint incident response. State officials quarantined the affected premises and are performing additional surveillance and testing within a 10-kilometer radius around the affected flock. The birds on the affected property have been depopulated to prevent the spread of the disease.

“Poultry is the Commonwealth’s top agricultural commodity and protecting this industry remains our top priority. We will continue to work with the Virginia Poultry Federation, and other industry partners, to ensure strict biosecurity protocols are in place for Virginia poultry producers and poultry products that are shipped in and out of the state,” said VDACS Commissioner Joseph Guthrie.

Poultry owners and industry members alike need to take precautions to protect their flocks from the incurable disease, said Michael Persia, a professor and Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist of poultry nutrition and management in the School of Animal Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“The disease could be economically devastating to the industry and could also cause backyard owners to lose their entire flock,” said Persia “To help protect flocks, it’s important to take practical biosecurity measures to reduce and eliminate potential sources of infection.”

These safety measures include:

  • Reduce and eliminate any interaction with wild birds, especially migratory waterfowl, that carry the disease
  • Keep birds indoors. If not possible, keep the birds under cover outdoors.
  • Use a dedicated pair of footwear for taking care of the birds to reduce the chance of bringing something into their habitat.
  • Do not feed or provide water outside. Feeding and hydration should be done indoors, which discourages wild birds from interacting with the habitat.
  • Wear clean clothes or have a dedicated coverall when interacting with the birds.
  • Wash hands before and after any bird interactions.

While poultry owners may not know if their birds have the disease, there are common symptoms of avian influenza which are often present:

  • Unexplained mortality is common with this strain of avian flu. If unexplained mortality is seen, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services should be contacted immediately.
  • The birds are quieter than normal.
  • Decrease in feed or water intake.
  • Diarrhea with a green hue.
  • Sneezing or coughing, as avian influenza is a respiratory disease.
  • Discolored and swollen face/head and hocks.

Additional biosecurity information is available here.

Since wild birds can be infected with these viruses without appearing sick, VDACS said people should minimize direct contact with wild birds by using gloves. If contact occurs, washing hands with soap and water and changing clothing before having any contact with healthy domestic poultry and birds is recommended. Further, hunters should dress game birds in the field whenever possible and practice good biosecurity to prevent any potential disease spread.


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