Delaware agricultural officials are awaiting results of tests to determine the exact strain of the avian influenza virus found on a poultry farm in northern Sussex County on Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2004.
The virus found on the farm near Greenwood is of the H7 variety, as was the virus found last week in a non-commercial Kent County flock. Further testing will determine the precise strain of the H7 virus, which has no history of danger to humans, according to state agriculture officials,
Its effect on chickens, however, can be devastating. Already, the Greenwood flock of 73,000 birds has been destroyed and will be composted in a sealed broiler house.
Delaware Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse issued a statement on Feb. 11 laying out the details of an industrywide quarantine being put in effect in an attempt to stem the spread of the disease throughout Sussex County broiler houses.
"All persons having anything to do with Delmarva's chicken industry need to make significant changes to their standard operating procedures to limit and prevent the spread of the virus. Business as usual will not work," Scuse said. We are in an emergency situation and everyone’s cooperation is needed."
"We still do not know, and may not be able to determine, the exact means of transmission of the virus to Delaware. We know that it is here and we must take steps to prevent its spread. We are trying to protect a multi-billion dollar industry, which gives jobs to thousands of people, and 2,100 farm families on the Delmarva Peninsula," Scuse said.
There are more than 75 farms within 6 miles of the infected farms, all of which are under state quarantine until further notice. Birds over 21 days of age on these farms will be tested every 10 days for evidence of the virus.
The Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc. Emergency Disease Task Force believes that the most likely ways to transmit the virus is firstly, through people carrying it on their shoe, secondly, by people and machinery entering and leaving the farm during routine operations, and thirdly, through the air. Therefore, the task force is recommending the following precautionary measures:
- Anyone providing products and services to chicken farms should stay away, and should do business by telephone and e-mail when possible. If services such as chicken house equipment repairs are absolutely necessary, service providers need to park as far away from the chicken houses as possible, wear disposable biosecurity clothing to be left on the farm, and clean and disinfect all equipment and materials taken into and out of the chicken houses. Bleach and Lysol spray are effective disinfectants.
- Growers need to be vigilant in keeping persons off their farms, including news reporters. They should post DPI "Restricte: No Admittance" signs (available free of charge from the DPI office) or "Do Not Enter" signs. Growers need to keep a log of who visits and when, where they were prior to arriving, and where they are going next. This information could be a key in stopping disease spread.
- Unless absolutely necessary, those in the chicken industry should avoid meetings or gathering points with other persons in the chicken industry. If such meetings/visits are essential, those involved need to wear clean clothing from their homes or offices and wash clothing as soon as possible upon their return. The avian influenza virus is easily carried by manure, feathers, dust, clothing, humans, and many other mechanisms. Businesses dealing with poultry growers should have disinfectant footbaths at their entrances. The water and disinfectant should be changed daily.
- Anyone in the chicken industry that go into chicken houses should avoid contact with wild waterfowl, which can be carriers of the AI virus. Growers need to make sure carcasses are properly composted to avoid viruses being carried by buzzards and other scavengers.
- Organizations and companies planning meetings to be attended by poultry growers and others in the industry should consider canceling these meetings until the emergency is over.
- Poultry growers should call police if anyone is seen trespassing on their property, according to the DPI statement. "Persons deliberately or unwittingly might be moving disease agents from farm to farm," the statement said.
For a complete list of precautions laid out by the Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc., go to the DPI website, www.dpichicken.org. For the latest news and statements from the Department of Agriculture, go to http://www.state.de.us/deptagri/. For information on avian flu in general, see the Centers for Disease Control Website at www.cdc.gov/flu.