Learning more about the HPAI threat

By Margaret Ross - Contributing columnist

Hello everyone! My name is Margaret Ross and I am the new area specialized poultry agent for the eastern region. I cover 40 counties along the I-95 corridor and east, in North Carolina. I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself as well as let you know a little bit about my background.

I graduated from NC State University in 2010 with a BS in Animal Science and started with Cooperative Extension in Craven and Jones Counties as the livestock agent July of 2010. I worked as the livestock agent for almost five and a half years and took this new position November 1 of this year. I am housed in Jones County. During my time as livestock agent, I completed a Master of Animal Science from NC State University as well as worked with the backyard poultry producers a great deal. My new position will mainly be focused on commercial operations, where I will be available to write litter management plans and composting permits, hold educational classes for turkey and chicken producers as well as answer questions.

I also wanted to take this time to update you on how you can find information pertaining to the threat of HPAI (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza). The North Carolina Department of Agriculture (NCDA) has done a great job providing information for the public. If you own backyard poultry, I highly suggest familiarizing yourself with this site as well as registering your flock by getting a NC Farm ID number through the NCDA. This is simply a tracking system for them to use if there is a known case of HPAI near your flock. They will contact you to inform you so you can tighten your biosecurity protocols to help prevent the virus from getting into your flock.

The website is: http://ncagr.gov/avianflu/. If you click on the “Small-Flock/Backyard Chickens” tab, you will find a link to register your flock for the NC Farm ID program mentioned above. There are several other informational tabs: -What is Avian Influenza? -Consumers/Food Safety -Biosecurity -Newsroom -FAQs -Wild birds and hunting and -Fall ban on live bird shows/sales. Also, the last tab discusses the ban on live bird shows, including shows at local fairs, etc. until January 15, 2016. If you have any questions about this, you can contact the NCDA at the number below.

According to the NCDA, there are many biosecurity measures you can take to reduce the threat of HPAI to your farm: Do not allow your birds to interact with wild birds (known carriers of the virus, especially ducks), don’t visit other farms that have birds, and be sure to wash your hands, clothes, and disinfect your shoes before and after working with your chickens. Don’t forget your vehicle can also carry disease so be sure there is no organic matter on your vehicle before leaving your home and driving to or through an area that may have poultry. Also, be sure to know what the signs and symptoms of HPAI are, so you can look for them in your flock: nasal discharge, extremely quiet birds, decrease in egg production, and decreased food and water consumption, as well as unusual death in your flock.

If you suspect your flock has been infected, report it immediately. Contact the Office of the State Veterinarian at 919.707.3250. You should also note that there are no known cases of the virus in North Carolina at this time and to continue to monitor your flock very carefully. If you have any questions, you can contact your local Cooperative Extension Office. Margaret Ross can be reached by contacting the Jones County Cooperative Extension Office at 252.448.9621 or by email at [email protected]

Margaret Ross is an area specialized poultry agent for the eastern region (which includes Sampson County) and is housed in Jones County.

By Margaret Ross

Contributing columnist

Margaret Ross is an area specialized poultry agent for the eastern region (which includes Sampson County) and is housed in Jones County.