Avian influenza is a serious disease concern for poultry producers and animal health officials. While influenza strains in birds, just as in people, vary considerably in severity, some influenza viruses can be devastating to domestic poultry. Recent information on Asian strains that may infect people as well as birds have only heightened those concerns. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Animal Industry, regularly monitors our domestic fowl for evidence of influenza.
The Division has 35 authorized agents trained to collect samples and testing is carried out in both the Live Oak Diagnostic Laboratory and the Bronson Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory. The Bronson Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory is recognized and approved to conduct specific tests to identify virulent strains of the virus. Samples are regularly collected from exhibition or back yard flocks, and commercial poultry breeding flocks are sampled and tested every 90 days. Additionally, there are 35 botanicas that participate in a voluntary surveillance and testing program. This year surveillance sampling and testing for avian influenza, has expanded to include testing birds at small animal sales, live bird markets, county fairs and exhibitions.
Poultry from other countries with serious strains of avian influenza virus are not permitted to enter the United States. Additionally, poultry entering Florida from other states can not be imported from quarantined areas and all other poultry must have a permit for entry. Commercial poultry must originate from avian influenza free flocks in addition to meeting other import requirements.
Veterinarians, veterinary laboratories, and those working with birds are required to report diseases suspected as being influenza. Diseased poultry are tested and fully investigated and any reports of influenza-like disease are handled on an urgent basis until the disease can be fully identified and assessed. In the event of finding a serious strain, emergency measures will be taken immediately to quickly contain the virus among exposed poultry. Quarantine and other emergency plans are in place to eradicate such a disease as quickly as possible, should it be found.
The last reportable case, a potentially serious strain of avian influenza in Florida occurred in a single bird in a botanica in 2001. Birds at these premises were depopulated and the premises cleaned and disinfected to ensure that virus was eliminated. While Florida has been fortunate in recent years, other States have experienced avian influenza outbreaks that required eradication efforts. Eradication, once an outbreak has occurred, involves intensified surveillance, strong biosecurity measures to reduce the chance of disease spread, and the humane destruction of affected birds. These measures have been successful in other states and Florida, working with the USDA, is prepared to lead such efforts to eliminate an outbreak of avian influenza should the need arise.
Last Updated: July 7, 2010