by Clellie Allen
RALEIGH — Although North Carolina is still free from the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), all poultry owners in the state, regardless of number of birds, are now required to register for a NCFarmID number in advance of a likely outbreak.
State Veterinarian Doug Meckes announced the new requirement July 22, saying it would help the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) alert poultry owners about an HPAI outbreak, should one occur.
State Agriculture Com-missioner Steve Troxler, along with Meckes, has already canceled all bird shows and sales beginning Aug. 15 and lasting through Jan. 15, 2016. Individual sales are still allowed to take place.
“In planning our response for highly pathogenic avian influenza, one problem we’ve come across is that we can’t protect birds that we don’t know exist,” Meckes said. “We need to know where poultry are located so we can properly protect commercial and backyard flocks.”
Online sign-up forms will be available after Aug. 1.
NCDA&CS asserts that the information gathered through NCFarmID registration will be used only for animal health purposes.
The department is also requiring commercial poultry growers with 200 or more birds to submit an HPAI outbreak plan. A commercial grower is any grower under a contract with an integrated company.
“It’s very important that growers think through the worst-case scenario, because a confirmation of high-path avian flu would certainly be a worst-case scenario,” Meckes said. “We want each grower to consider their resources and location to determine how they can best handle an outbreak in a way that is environmentally sensitive and gets them back online as soon as is feasible.”
HPAI and people
In birds, HPAI causes sudden death, often without signs of illness. The virus can infect all poultry from chickens to turkeys, pheasants, quail, domestic ducks, geese and guinea fowl. It is carried by free flying water fowl such as ducks, geese and shorebirds. There is currently an outbreak of HPAI in the Pacific, Central and Mississippi flyways (migratory bird paths). The disease has been found in both wild and domesticated bird populations.
The strain of avian influenza in the United States has not been found to be transmitted to humans. Additionally, avian influenza is not transmissible by eating poultry or eggs that have been prepared with normal safety precautions.
NCDA&CS officials are asking poultry owners, and the public, to be alert for changes in bird flocks. Finding one bird dead would not be a cause for concern, but a significant number of dead birds should be reported to local veterinarians who will then take action and notify the state.
Resources for growers
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is presenting a free webinar (seminar watched on a computer via Internet) Thursday, Aug. 6 at 7 p.m. Registration is required, to save space, at healthybirdswebinar.com.
Additionally, the Franklin County Cooperative Extension office is holding a meeting Tuesday, Aug. 25 for all poultry owners from the backyard flock owners to 4-H poultry participants to the commercial growers.
Dr. Sarah Mason, the director of the poultry animal health program with NCDA&CS, is the guest speaker and will lead discussion about biosecurity measures to protect against the disease. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Annex meeting room, 103 S. Bickett Blvd. and includes a free dinner. To attend, contact Martha Mobley at 919-496-3344 or firstname.lastname@example.org.