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Several countries in the world are, once again, experiencing a worsening of avian influenza. Only in the United States, more than 22.8 million birds had to be slaughtered in the last two months: the outbreak reached 31 states and is considered the largest in the country in the last 7 years.
In Europe, the virus has been circulating for the longest time and has already reached Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Italy, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Germany, Portugal, Spain… France has even recently authorized some farmers to slaughter entire flocks of birds by asphyxiation in order to try to prevent the rapid spread of the disease.
That’s 40 countries in Europe, North America, Asia, and Africa – according to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) — fighting to keep the threat under control in what authorities have dubbed “the worst avian influenza outbreak ever”. Virtually all countries producing broiler chickens and commercial eggs have already reported cases of avian influenza.
In this critical scenario, how is the situation in Brazil? Should we be concerned about avian influenza? What can we do to avoid facing an outbreak here? These are the questions that our Technical and Commercial Director, Paulo Martins, helps to answer in this post.
Brazil: why we need to worry and act
Brazil is the only one among the world’s major chicken producers that has never registered avian influenza in its territory — in all of South America, there has only been one outbreak of high pathogenicity, in Chile, in 2002, besides other outbreaks of low pathogenicity, identified in monitoring in other countries. One of the possible reasons for this is that migratory birds concentrate in well-defined sites and in regions where there is no consolidated poultry production, such as Lagoa dos Patos, in Rio Grande do Sul.
But Paulo Martins explains that there are many other possibilities for the entry (and subsequent spread) of the avian influenza virus in Brazil that go beyond the migration of birds between the Americas. Among them, the legal (and illegal) bird trade and all the air, land, and sea traffic.
There are 14,000 kilometers of dry and river borders and another 7,300 kilometers of sea borders to control, in addition to airports. In other words, risks of contaminated material entering the country will always exist.
And, if the avian influenza virus spreads to Brazil, the foreign market practically closes to the country — and we are not talking only about the poultry production. Therefore, what has been happening around the world should also be a reason for concern for Brazilian producers.
The Brazilian Association of Animal Protein (ABPA) has even started a sectorial mobilization for a campaign with the aim of disseminating sanitary care in poultry farms throughout the country. Our content comes precisely to reinforce this alert, since the whole sector is co-responsible for keeping the country free from avian influenza — and thus not suffering its consequences.
Now is the time to intensify surveillance with serological monitoring, review all biosecurity procedures and train the teams to contribute to the poultry activity and keep the country less vulnerable. We have listed the 10 main biosecurity measures, in production systems, to increase protection against avian influenza.
10 measures to keep your production free of avian influenza
Ideally, there should be at least 3 kilometers of distance from your production to neighboring properties that have non-industrial poultry (subsistence, ornamental, and waterfowl, especially poultry farms of multiple species and ages).
Isolation and control of the property
All flow of materials, vehicles, and people, at the accesses to the poultry agro-industrial facilities, has to be restricted and controlled. Everything must be registered in questionnaires and forms. By the way, there should be no visitors on the property during this most critical period.
It is as if we were to reproduce on farms the same lockdown, we saw during the COVID 19 pandemic: no acquaintances, no neighbors, no relatives should visit your farm.
The Technical Responsible (TR) or integration supervisor, the vaccination and maintenance team, and all employees must follow a ritual of disinfecting vehicles and footwear, as well as taking baths and changing clothes. Everything must be strictly inspected.
Even with all these procedures, no one who has been less than three days on another farm should enter your farm. Those who meet all these requirements must inform and register their names, the reason for the visit, their phone numbers, contacts, and the farms they have been to in the last 7 days.
The access gate at the entrance is the first physical barrier of isolation on the farm, nucleus or houses. It should be well marked with warning signs such as “Access only for authorized persons”, “No pets allowed”, etc.
Wash first, disinfect later
Any and all transport vehicles must remain outside the perimeter of the farm. Vehicles and equipment entering the farm, including those belonging to owners, employees, and technicians, must be thoroughly washed with a water and detergent jet, and only then passed through the disinfectant spray arches. The arches have to be just beyond the access gate and, most importantly, have to work perfectly, day and night, with a daily change of disinfectant!
For the boots of the professionals who enter the nucleus and poultry houses, the recommendation is the same: wash with a jet of water and scrub very well with a brush first, and only then disinfect. It is a sequence of procedures that makes a difference!
Fences, mesh or wire mesh
To prevent wild birds, domestic animals, or free-ranging animals from gaining access to the poultry houses, attention must be paid to fences, mesh, or wire mesh. The isolation fences of the houses or nucleus have to be at least 1 meter high and 5 meters away from the houses or buildings.
Poultry houses must also be covered in mesh with galvanized wire, nylon, plastic mesh, or other material with a mesh size of no more than 1 inch (2.54 cm). The mesh needs to cover each and every area from the floor to the ceiling of the house. Be careful with the entrances (doors and gates): they must remain closed, preferably with some sort of automatic closing device.
Integrated Pest Control
It is essential to control pests (flies, other insects, mites, rodents), remembering that rat extermination comes after insect extermination. This is because rats shelter a large amount of ectoparasites in their bodies. When they die, as soon as the carcass cools down, the ectoparasites leave the carcasses and invade neighboring facilities.
It is important to use rodenticides at strategic points of rodent circulation and to periodically monitor the control points.
Treatment of underground water or surface water
All water supplied to the birds (or water for cleaning and disinfection) should be chlorinated with a minimum of 3ppm at the final point of consumption. If the water used on the farm comes from the surface (rivers, lakes, ponds), care must be doubled, and the chlorine level should not be less than 5 ppm at the final point of consumption. The important thing is to always monitor these values: considering the ORP (oxidation/reduction potential) parameters, they should be between 650 and 700 mV (millivolts).
Remember that wild, aquatic, and migratory birds that frequent rivers, lakes, and ponds can carry and transmit influenza viruses of low pathogenicity to local free-living birds (synanthropic birds) that live on the property (pigeons, anus, vultures). This leads to risk for commercial poultry.
Treatment of poultry litter between flocks
The processes of sanitizing the houses (including washing and disinfection if necessary) and the sanitary break between flocks reduce the infection pressure from agents and the risks of pathogen contamination. The treatment of reused poultry litter should be done taking into account that proper fermentation reduces the microbial load, reducing the risk of contamination of the flocks.
Reuse is not recommended if there is a health problem in the previous flock. The integration supervisor or the Technical Manager of your property can guide, case by case, how the treatment of poultry litter should be performed.
Disposal of carcasses or disposal birds
Sick birds and/or carcasses should be removed from the houses at least once in the morning, once in the middle of the workday, and once at the end of the workday. Carcasses should be stored in containers with lids to prevent access by domestic animals. They must be processed in compost bins, dehydrators, composting accelerators, or incinerators.
Every time the employee deposits the birds at the disposal sites, before returning to work, he must perform the entire sanitation ritual, including changing clothes and shoes.
Alert for signs or symptoms of diseases
Farmers and/or employees who work on the farm, in direct contact with the birds, are the best allies in the early diagnosis of problems, as long as they are well informed, trained, and have direct contact with the farm supervisors or Technical Manager. Any reduction of feed or water intake by the birds or any respiratory, nervous, or digestive symptoms should be reported immediately.
These 10 items must be understood by everyone involved in poultry production, including the owner, his family, and his employees. For each new employee hired, training should be given on these 10 points. What’s more, the ideal is that there should be retraining of all employees every six months, when each of them should point out possible flaws to their superiors, who should seek correction, help, and solutions.
These biosecurity measures are essential for Brazil – and the poultry and egg industry – to be free of avian influenza and also Newcastle disease. In addition, they help maintain production quality and meet the demands of an increasingly demanding market.
Check here for more details about biosecurity measures in layer farms and here for broiler production. This is the time to review procedures and also to position yourself in the market in face of this outbreak that has had a high impact on prices and availability of poultry and eggs
Talk to Biocamp and check how we can contribute to the training of your team in biosecurity procedures.