WVDA Calls for Increase Biosecurity Given to Prevent Avian Influenza

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt and the West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) are urging poultry owners to increase biosecurity efforts following the detection of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in Indiana, Kentucky and Virginia. In addition, a Eurasian strain of Avian Influenza virus has been detected via routine surveillance from hunter-harvested wild ducks in South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Florida. Poultry is West Virginia’s number one agricultural commodity contributing $334 million to the economy.

“With neighboring states detecting HPAI and other states finding avian influenza in wild fowl, it is time producers enhance biosecurity in West Virginia. Hopefully, increased biosecurity and the emergency action plans in those states will keep the disease contained,” said Commissioner Leonhardt. “The Department holds exercises to review our plans annually, so we are prepared and have mechanisms in place to deal with an outbreak.”

Scattered infections of this virus strain have been detected this year in Europe, and in December, two cases were reported in eastern Canada. Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza had not been detected in U.S wild birds in five years. Also known as Bird Flu, this virus can sometimes pose a risk to people who have had direct contact with infected wild or domestic birds.

“We encourage producers to focus on biosecurity which is the mainstay for preventing introduction of this highly infectious virus,” Leonhardt said. “Anyone involved with poultry production, from commercial operations to organic producers to backyard birds, should increase biosecurity for their flocks to prevent exposure to the virus. Hopefully these measures will keep the disease at bay.”

Increasing protection includes restricting access to properties, keeping wild birds away from poultry and enhanced biosecurity methods which are provided in detail at the following link: USDA APHIS | Defend the Flock Program. WVDA’s Animal Health Division routinely conducts sick poultry investigations and the division’s Moorefield Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory performs presumptive testing for Avian Influenza and other high-index animal diseases as a member the National Animal Health Laboratory Network.

Poultry owners should immediately report unusual death loss, a drop in egg production or any sick domestic birds to Animal Health Division at 304-558-2214.

The West Virginia Department of Agriculture protects plant, animal and human health through a variety of scientific, regulatory and consumer protection programs. The Commissioner of Agriculture is one of six statewide elected officials who sits on the Board of Public Works.