Thursday, June 18, 2015

AVIAN FLU - US and Canada

Backyard chicken keepers and big farmers alike are in all stages of panic at the moment. With large numbers of birds infected in the midwest, including a farm in Iowa culling a total of 5 million infected chickens! That is at one single farm! In the west, several wild ducks, hawks, and falcons have been found with the disease, and it has reached some backyard flocks as well.
While this has mainly taken place in the United States, There have been a few small outbreaks in southern British Columbia and Ontario in Canada as well.

Government Intervention

Several states have put a hold on all large poultry sales, shows, and similar gatherings until the outbreak is under control. 
30 countries have banned US poultry due to the outbreak, particularly from Iowa, where the largest outbreaks have taken place. Iowa is the top commercial producer of eggs in the United States. Considering nearly half of the laying hens in the state have been culled, economics expect Iowa to take a pretty big economic hit.

Is my flock at risk?!

In the US Midwest, your flock could be at risk for contracting the Avian Flu Virus. Measures in biosecurity must be taken to ensure the health of your flock. Keep your birds pinned up, rather than free ranging, and do not add any new birds to your flock.
There have been smaller cases in the Northwest and Southwestern US states, so care must be taken even if you don't live in the Midwest (where the worst is taking place)! There have also been a few cases in southern Canada. There has yet to be a case found on the Atlantic flyway, though the CDC warns that migrations in the fall months may spread the virus more quickly. In my personal opinion, if you live in the US or southern Canada, even if you do not live in a 'hotspot,' measures need to be taken to avoid infection of your flock. Do not order hatching eggs or live birds from affected states (even from hatcheries - some have found the virus in their breeding flocks). If you get any new birds, quarantine should be even more strict than usual. Also, avoid allowing your flock to come in contact with wild birds - particularly migratory birds. It is suggested that you do not feed wild birds for this reason. If you take simple biosecurity measures, your flock will most likely be safe!
Luckily, it seems to be of no risk to humans. The CDC and USDA confirmed that no cases of HPAI H5 (the three viruses in the US and Canada currently) have infected humans, though they warn that it's not impossible for humans to contract the virus.
However, and outbreak of the H7N9 AI virus in China has resulted with infections among humans. This is different from the viruses we are experiencing in the US and Canada. 

Figures

In the United states alone, nearly 50 million birds have been culled due to Avian Influenza. The majority of these numbers come from large factory farms.
The US egg industry have taken a huge hit from the epidemic, with egg prices nearly doubling over the past few months. Many bakeries have have been completely cut off, and some grocery stores have begun rationing eggs (limiting the amount you can buy per purchase). Bakeries and restaurants are turning to European eggs and plant-based substitutes to use in their goods.

Effect on Backyard Poultry Owners

Before we flip out and give up on poultry, it's best to analyze the situation. Sure, many birds have had to be culled due to outbreaks. However, most of those were in commercial operations and therefore small backyard flocks could be easy to keep secure and disease-free with fewer birds to house and monitor. With the egg rationing, price increase, and public panic over the virus, this situation would be extremely easy to take advantage of and sell excess eggs! 
Whether you plan to take advantage of the situation and jack your own egg prices up, be kind and keep them the same, or quarantine your whole flock and not sell anything, the AI virus will likely have some effect on poultry owners. Keep yourself updated constantly and track individual outbreaks using this map!

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