Agency RSS

Growing In Agriculture column: Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)

Growing In Agriculture

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)


Thursday, May 21, 2015

by Secretary of Agriculture Lucas Lentsch



While Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer grilling season, recent news may have some worried about the cost of eggs or the Thanksgiving turkey. Avian influenza has been devastating to many of our poultry producers, but be assured that our nation’s food supply remains safe and abundant.



In the last few months, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has taken a tremendous toll on the poultry industry in South Dakota and a number of other Midwest states. To date, seven million turkeys and 33 million laying hens have been impacted by HPAI. Nationwide, more than 40 million birds have been affected.



Here in South Dakota, the Animal Industry Board (AIB) is working closely with the poultry industry and individuals who have poultry in backyard flocks. Avian influenza is detected through visual observation and surveillance of poultry flocks. When a producer suspects that their birds may be infected, the state veterinarian is contacted and a disease investigation is initiated.  Samples are collected by swabbing the mucus coating the throat of live birds, a process which does no harm to the birds. These samples are sent to the Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory in Brookings. The lab in Brookings works with the state veterinarian and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service National Veterinary Services Laboratories at Ames, Iowa to confirm whether a flock is infected with HPAI.



If HPAI is confirmed, the farms housing the infected birds are quarantined and the birds are humanely euthanized. To help slow the spread of HPAI, the AIB establishes a 10 kilometer zone around each infected farm. Animal health officials contact those in the zone to determine if poultry are present and schedule a time for any poultry to be sampled.



Consumers should know that HPAI is not a food safety concern and is not transmissible by eating properly prepared poultry. Additionally, as part of the USDA HPAI response plan, infected birds do not enter the food supply. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service inspection program personnel are assigned to every federally inspected meat, poultry and egg product plant in the U.S. to ensure that our food supply is safe.



The H5N2 avian influenza virus has not been found to infect humans, and additional information can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website (http://www.cdc.gov/). Additional information on the national HPAI incident can be found on the AIB website (http://aib.sd.gov).



Here in South Dakota, we are fortunate to have an experienced and dedicated team at the AIB responding to the HPAI outbreak. I am thankful for their hard work during this difficult time. Losing animals can be incredibly difficult for producers and their families, either because of natural disasters or unpredictable and quick moving diseases. I am keeping our poultry farmers, and those assisting them, in my thoughts and prayers as this disease takes its toll on our agricultural industry.