Although not as widespread as it once was, the raising of backyard chickens in the United States has seen a resurgence in recent years, with small backyard poultry holdings even turning up in urban areas. Proponents cite fresher, better tasting eggs, and the knowledge that they are coming from humanely treated birds as major factors in their decision to raise chickens.
This year, however, a new threat has arrived in North America – the Eurasian HPAI H5 avian flu virus and its reassortant offspring (H5N2, H5N1) – which have spread across much of the western half of the United States over the past four months.
Dozens of commercial poultry producers have been hit, and millions of birds affected, and the virus continues to spread. While their financial exposure may not be as great, the owners of small backyard flocks of poultry are also at risk.
Tomorrow the USDA and their partners will hold a special Twitter Chat (hashtag #chickenchat2015) on how these backyard chicken operations can protect themselves against these highly pathogenic avian flu viruses.
Do You Know the Biosecurity Steps to Protect Your Poultry from Avian Influenza? Get Advice From the Experts with #chickenchat2015 on April 16
Posted by Joelle R. Hayden, Public Affairs Specialist, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, on April 14, 2015 at 11:00 AM
Since December 2014, USDA has confirmed several cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 in the Pacific, Central, and Mississippi flyways (or migratory bird paths). The disease has been found in wild birds, as well as in a few backyard and commercial poultry flocks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections to be low. No human cases of these HPAI H5 viruses have been detected in the United States, Canada, or internationally.
Anyone who owns or works with poultry—whether on a commercial farm, in the wild, or at a hobby/backyard farm—should take proper steps to keep HPAI from spreading. The best way to protect your birds is to follow good biosecurity. Even if you are already familiar with biosecurity, now is a good time to double-check your practices. You are the best protection your birds have!
Be sure to join Dr. Catherine Woteki, USDA Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics, and others for a Twitter chat aimed to empower poultry owners with the information they need to protect their birds’ health. Participants include: USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and Forest Service; the United States Geological Survey; the Food and Drug Administration; Department of Agriculture representatives from Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wisconsin; the National Turkey Federation; and the National Chicken Council. Andy Schneider, a backyard poultry expert, also will be joining the chat, along with Healthy Harry, the spokesbird for USDA’s Biosecurity for Birds outreach campaign.
Tune into @scienceatUSDA or @USDA_APHIS and follow along with #chickenchat2015 on Thursday, April 16 at 2 p.m. EDT (11 a.m. PT) to learn how YOU can protect your poultry from this virus.