Chief veterinary officer discusses how to deal with disease outbreaks
SALISBURY, Md. — When a disease outbreak strikes a livestock or poultry farm, the most important thing is getting disinfected and getting animals back on the farm.
Last year, the USDA announced new rules that spelled out how it would make indemnity payments to growers and poultry companies in a highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak.
Dr. Jack Shere, deputy administrator of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Veterinary Service and chief veterinary officer of the United States, discussed some of the issues around an outbreak and getting growers back in business at the Delmarva Poultry University-Industry Partnership Summit on March 13.
“Our basic goal in an outbreak is to eliminate the virus whether we’re talking about avian influenza or New Castle disease,” Shere said. “We want to make sure that when there’s a repopulation from a disease outbreak that they’re putting those animals in a clean environment.”
When an outbreak hits, resources are soon stretched thin, including contractors who clean and disinfect poultry houses, and Shere said the rule allows affected growers to disinfect their own farms rather than wait for outside help.
USDA will pay half of the clean up indemnity up front and a second half once the farm is tested negative for the virus, Shere said. The flat rate for floor-raised poultry is $0.65 per square foot.
“We have to operate on the basis that if the producer has the ability to do this they should be able to do this,” Shere said. “This puts the responsibility back in the producer’s hand and gives them the tools they need to get back in business.”
A major caveat in the government’s indemnity rules is it does not include the time lost before a farm is determined to be virus free and repopulated.
“That’s part of the issue that we struggle with,” Shere said. “A lot of people say ‘Well that’s what hurts me the most.’ And they’re right. That downtime is killer.”
It’s especially bad if other farms in the quarantine area are not cleared of the virus which prevents disinfected farms from repopulating.
Shere said in those situations, it’s on the growers to communicate and work together.
“Everybody has to work together. That means the backyards the commercial industry and you have to clean up in a radius so that you can repopulate,” Shere said. “We will not allow repopulation if there’s virus still detected in the protected area. It just doesn’t make sense if you put birds right back they’re just going to get infected if someone else still has the virus.”
Asked about the progress of using vaccine for Avian Influenza, Shere said the technology is moving forward at several universities.
He added that there has been concern in the industry that trade partners would view use of a standardized vaccine program as a sign that the United States is unable to control the disease with other biosecurity.
“That’s simply not going to be the case anymore,” he said, as advancements will allow a more precise use of vaccines in preventing the disease and its spread. “It’s going to be amazing with what can be done with vaccines.”
Shere added it will be the job of USDA’s trade representers to include details on vaccine use in updating bilateral agreements with trade partners to ensure unaffected chicken products can still be shipped and sold there.
“That’s all work for the future,” Shere told the crowd.
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