Poultry Plight: HPAI resurgence sparks concern, urgent action across agricultural sectors

Dr. Megan Niederwerder with the Swine Health Information Center emphasizes the interconnection of bio-security risks faced by all livestock producers as they watch the poultry industry reckon with another outbreak of High-Path Avian Flu,

After devastating commercial poultry flocks most of last year, a new wave of High-Path Avian Flu (HPAI) has emerged in the final months of 2023. The uptick in cases is quickly beginning to leave another trail of devastation in its wake, taking a significant toll on turkey, broiler-chicken, and table egg producers alike. According to APHIS data from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA), more than a million birds were culled across dozens of commercial flocks in November alone.

The severity of the situation is escalating quickly — and having a greater impact on broiler populations this time than the first HPAI outbreak. This became glaringly apparent last week, on Nov. 16, when nearly 800,000 chickens were removed from two separate commercial facilities in Oregon — as well as similar losses at facilities in Alabama and Missouri the week prior.

This alarming situation has not gone unnoticed by the pork industry, which is now taking proactive steps to mitigate potential risks on their farms.

Dr. Megan Niederwerder, the associate director of the Swine Health Information Center in Ames, Iowa, emphasized the interconnections of risks faced by the pork industry.

“We certainly have risks to our pork producers and our pigs with regards to feral swine and the diseases that they can carry,” Dr. Niederwerder said, underscoring the importance of learning from the avian influenza crisis — particularly in terms of bio-security measures, depopulation, and disposal.

While bio-security measures are crucial to preventing illnesses, Dr. Niederwerder emphasizes the significance of bio-containment. Protecting neighboring farms and minimizing the overall impact of diseases is essential, not only for the poultry industry but for the entire agricultural sector.

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