Poultry owners in Arkansas are taking steps to safeguard flocks from a mild strain of bird flu.
Last week, state health officials reported that a low-pathogenic strain of avian influenza was found on a poultry farm in Scott County.
Though experts with the state’s Livestock and Poultry Commission say the outbreak was isolated to one farm, Dustan Clark, a veterinarian with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, says farmers must take appropriate precautions to prevent the spread of diseases.
"An avian influenza outbreak can potentially lead to financial and flock losses for poultry producers and owners," Clark said. "Flock owners must do all they can to spot these illnesses and ultimately promote the basic hygiene and sanitation practices necessary to end them."
The H7N7 low-pathogen avian flu was found on a farm in western Arkansas that supplies birds to Tyson Foods, Inc. In a flock of 9,000; testing found about eight birds had the flu.
The birds that showed positive signs of having the virus were euthanized and the eggs the produced were destroyed. State officials say this strain of flu does not pose a threat to humans.
To prevent the spread of the bird flu virus and other diseases, Dustan Clark recommends the following practices:
- Do not allow visitors on the farm or in the poultry houses.
- All farm personnel should wear separate clothing (including shoes, boots, hats, gloves, etc.) on the farm. Clothes used on the farm should stay on the farm.
- Completely change all clothing after caring for the flock, and wash hands and arms thoroughly before leaving the premises.
- Do not visit other poultry farms or flocks or have contact with any other species of birds.
- Keep all poultry houses securely locked. Lock all houses from the inside while working inside.
- All equipment, crates, coops, etc. should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before and after use.
- All essential visitors (owners, feed delivery personnel, poultry catchers and haulers, service men, etc.) are to wear protective outer clothing, such as coveralls, boots, and headgear prior to being allowed near the poultry flock or farm.
- Monitor all vehicles (service, feed delivery, poultry delivery or removal, etc.) entering the premises to determine if they have been properly cleaned and disinfected. This includes disinfection of the tires and vehicle undercarriage.
- Sick and dying birds should be submitted to a diagnostic laboratory for proper diagnosis of the problem.
- Dead birds are to be properly disposed of by burial, incineration or other approved method.
- Any person handling wild game (especially waterfowl) must completely change clothing and shower or bathe before entering the premises.
- Do not borrow equipment, vehicles, etc. from another poultry farm.
- Remember to use basic hygiene to prevent contracting any influenza virus. This includes covering your mouth when you cough and/or sneeze and then washing your hands with soap and water afterwards.
- Properly handle and cook all poultry for consumption to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.