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Poultry growers urged to follow biosecurity
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- All Mississippians who raise any species of poultry are being urged to follow strict biosecurity practices and review new requirements regarding sales and exhibitions.
Tom Tabler, poultry specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said that while avian influenza is not a threat to human health or food safety, an outbreak would endanger backyard flocks and the state’s nearly $3 billion commercial poultry industry.
"There have been some isolated cases of avian influenza in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia. Two cases in Tennessee were highly pathogenic, but all others were low pathogenic," Tabler said. "Regardless, we don't want any cases in Mississippi."
Tabler said biosecurity and avoiding birds that could be from infected areas are keys to keeping Mississippi flocks safe. Unfortunately, wild birds, especially migrating waterfowl, can also contribute to outbreaks. Avoiding them and their droppings is critical to biosecurity.
“Anyone going near poultry should wear dedicated footwear or plastic boots. They should wash hands before entering and when leaving bird areas,” he said. “People should even change clothes and boots after trips to any location where other poultry growers/keepers could have been, including farm supply stores, coffee shops and other locations.”
Tabler discouraged growers from mixing new birds with existing flocks without quarantining the birds for 30 days.
“Purchase birds from National Poultry Improvement Plan, or NPIP, certified healthy flocks only,” he said. “Locations where different bird species -- such as turkeys, ducks or peacocks -- from unknown original locations are comingled have an increased risk.”
Dr. Jim Watson, state veterinarian with the Mississippi Board of Animal Health, said the state is implementing new measures at poultry sales and exhibitions because of the outbreaks across the Southeast.
“No poultry -- including chickens, ducks, turkeys, quail, pheasants and pea fowl-- are allowed from Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky or Georgia because of their current outbreaks,” Watson said. “Only Mississippi birds that are part of the NPIP program and have paperwork to prove it are allowed to be shown or sold at public events.”
Watson said birds from states other than those four Southeastern states must have proof they are from an NPIP-Avian Influenza Monitored Program or have a negative avian influenza test.
Every poultry owner in Mississippi should visit the state veterinarian’s “Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza” website for details at http://hpai.ms.gov/. Animal health entry regulations can be found at http://www.mdac.ms.gov/.