Federal laboratory testing confirmed two highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza (HPAI) cases — one at a pullet (young hen) operation in New Castle County and one broiler flock in Queen Anne’s County, MD.
It follows previously announced cases on farms in New Castle County and Cecil County, Maryland. Following these cases, federal and state partners have greatly expanded their surveillance sampling and testing in protecting the $1 billion-plus chicken industry in the region. However, the virus has not yet been detected in the heart of the Delmarva chicken growing and processing area to the south.
It is the first time avian influenza has been detected in a Delmarva broiler farm since 2004. Two earlier cases of HPAI detected in Delmarva poultry flocks in recent weeks involved layers, not broilers.
State officials have quarantined all affected premises, and birds on the properties are being killed to prevent the spread of the disease. Although the flu is not carried through food, birds from affected flocks will not enter the food system.
Avian influenza is a contagious airborne respiratory virus that spreads quickly among birds through nasal and eye secretions and manure. The virus can be spread in various ways from flock to flock, including by wild birds, through contact with infected poultry, by equipment, and on the clothing and shoes of caretakers. This virus affects poultry, like chickens, ducks, and turkeys, along with some wild bird species such as ducks, geese, shorebirds, and raptors.
Considering these new cases and the prevalence of the virus in the wild bird population, all poultry owners need to increase their vigilance in protecting their flocks from contracting avian influenza, a release from the Delaware Department of Agriculture stated.
“While Delmarva’s chicken community has worked hard to prevent avian influenza from affecting their flocks and was able to keep the 2015 U.S. HPAI outbreak from impacting us, the ease with which this disease can spread from bird to bird means HPAI poses a significant risk to broiler chickens,” said Holly Porter, executive director of the Delmarva Chicken Association. “Delmarva Chicken Association and the chicken industry is working closely with USDA and state authorities as they quarantine, depopulate, disinfect and test these affected farms. These chickens will not enter the food system, and properly cooked chicken remains completely safe to eat.”
“Considering these new cases and the prevalence of the virus in the wild bird population, all poultry owners need to increase their vigilance in protecting their flocks from contracting avian influenza,” the Delaware-Maryland Avian Influenza Joint Information Center stated.