Poultry on family farms could be exposed because of only having bars between them and the wild birds (via Flickr/Joshua Berry).
In 2015, the first case of avian influenza was reported in April. This year, agricultural specialists are on high alert and want to prevent the disaster of last year. In one of the worst animal epidemics in recent years, 7.5 million turkeys and 42.1 million chickens died and taxpayers lost $950 million.
This Spring, wild waterfowl are expected to pass through the U.S. on their annual migration route back from the Southern Hemisphere. Government officials, industry leaders and farmers are working to tighten biosecurity measures before their arrival.
Some measures taken in Iowa, the epicenter of last year’s epidemic, include installing showers near the barns, requiring clothing changes and closing the barns to visitors. The farmers will also watch for symptoms of avian influenza, such as lethargy, decreased water intake and more birds dying suddenly. Despite this, contamination could still occur because completely preventing exposure from the outside is impossible.
Dust containing feces from wild birds is widespread, and in areas where biosecurity measures are not enforced or when workers choose not to follow procedures, outbreaks are likely to occur. However, preventing an outbreak from spreading to other farms should be easier this year because state agricultural departments are more prepared. They have taken measures to prevent the disaster of last year from reoccurring and plan to do everything in their power to take control of avian influenza epidemics this year.