Avian influenza seminars hit the road

A series of 10 roadshows to raise awareness for avian influenza (AI) commenced in Perth, Scotland, last week. 

Organised by the UK Poultry Health and Welfare Group (PHWG), the first meeting saw more than 100 delegates congregate to address the concerns that AI imposes on the poultry sector.

“The PHWG was formed in order to identify industry issues, focusing on health and welfare, and to take these issues forwards to policy and delivery,” explained Máire Burnett from the British Poultry Council (BPC).

“We recognised that we needed to raise awareness of AI among poultry farmers in order to ensure they are fully prepared in the event of an outbreak.”

Scotland’s chief veterinary officer (CVO) Sheila Voas was also in attendance. She commended the meetings for the services they offer. “AI is an issue that affects us all, across the poultry sector. These roadshows are a great opportunity to raise awareness to prepare poultry farmers and also to get to know their local APHA [Animal and Plant Health Agency] representatives.”

The group was created in 2012 and consists of representing bodies from all poultry species, with the purpose of acting as a joint voice for the British poultry sector. The British Poultry Council, British Egg Industry Council, National Farmers’ Union, Game Farmers’ Association and the British Veterinary Poultry Association are the organisations that the group consists of.

Dr Barry Thorp of veterinary group St David’s Poultry Team commenced the first meeting with presentations that provided attendees with information on clinical signs of AI in a poultry flock and the importance of biosecurity in preventing and controlling outbreaks of AI and similar diseases.

He claimed: “Investment in biosecurity makes economic sense based on the risk assessment.”

Dr Michael Park, veterinary head of exotics and welfare for APHA Operations, urged poultry keepers to ensure they were included on the Poultry Register.

“It’s vital that all keepers of poultry are registered so that we can ensure we minimise the risk and impact to business during an outbreak by being able to contact those in the affected protection and surveillance zones,” he said.

“The movement restrictions put in place while we conduct tracing operations and identify the source are applicable to every poultry premise in the zone – hatcheries, slaughterhouses, commercial sites and even backyard poultry.”

Premises within IP [infected premise] zones are also at risk of being negatively impacted by an outbreak, as Dan Person, veterinary health director at Aviagen (Europe), observed. He said: “The cost of an outbreak both to individual businesses and to the UK as a whole can be a significant figure. While the IP faces the cost of secondary cleansing and disinfection, loss of birds and business interruptions, there are also restrictions placed on the country under OIE [The World Organisation for Animal Health] regulations, which affect the ability to export.”

Regarding this possibility, businesses were encouraged to develop a business contingency plan.

It was stressed that the cost of an outbreak should not be underestimated, as it was claimed by Daniel Dring, of PD Hook Hatcheries, that damage can cost anywhere between £500,000 to £10 million. “You, as the producer, pick up the cost for secondary cleansing and disinfection and face not being able to operate for a significant period of time.”

There is still space to register your interest for upcoming roadshows on http://web.nfuonline.com/FormAi.

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