Preventing A Poultry Pandemic

AGNR's response to the deadly bird flu sweeping the country includes ANSC's Dr. Broadbent and Dr. Jin

August 21, 2023 Kimbra Cutlip

As 2023 ushered in hopes for an end to the COVID pandemic, another virus loomed over the country. This one decimating wild birds and reaching into poultry houses where millions of flocks had to be culled. In the media, the soaring price of eggs heralded the arrival of highly pathogenic avian influenza, H5N1.

Surprising as it was to the public, the University of Maryland’s poultry team had been watching and preparing for such an outbreak for many years.

“We’ve been working closely with Maryland poultry farmers on biosecurity for a long time, and they’ve  made great strides over the years,” said Jonathan Moyle, state poultry specialist and principal Extension agent for the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Since the last outbreak of H5N1 in 2015, Moyle and the UME team has incorporated biosecurity into nearly all their meetings with farmers. They’ve also produced training materials, including videos outlining the importance of such practices as changing shoes before entering chicken houses, showering immediately after working on the farm, limiting visitors and making sure service people 
wear full protective equipment on the farm.

The measures protect chickens from a range of diseases, but it’s nearly impossible to fully protect them from a disease like H5N1, which is spread by wild birds. That’s why alarm bells went off around the country when the recent strain of H5N1 started killing off wild birds that had never been affected before. Normally carried by water fowl, this bird flu was devastating raptors, owls, crows, vultures and many others. And it was much more deadly than previous outbreaks.

The arrival of this strain in the region sparked a series of Zoom calls with Maryland farmers and Extension agents, veterinarians and Department of Agriculture representatives, all sharing information about conditions on the ground and how to protect flocks from contact with wild birds and their feces.

Read Full Story in AGNR's
Momentum Magazine, Summer 2023 Edition