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USDA takes action for rapid response to bird flu

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In January of this year, the the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed its first case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (shortened to HPAI) in wild birds in South Carolina. One month later, the USDA confirmed the presence of HPAI in a commercial turkey flock in Dubois County, Indiana, the first commercial poultry case since 2020. Since then, the virus has been confirmed in 29 states, affecting more than 33 million domestic birds. To combat the outbreak, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is leading responses in each of the affected states and working with animal health officials.

HPAI viruses, often called the bird flu, is a form of avian influenza that has been found to be highly contagious and often fatal to domestic poultry. It can be spread by contact with infected birds, equipment, or clothing worn by those working with the animals. Anyone involved with poultry production from the small backyard to the large commercial producer should review their biosecurity activities to assure the health of their birds. 

Preventive measures on the farm and homeowner level and government response funding are seen as vital to ending the outbreak.

To help ensure APHIS can continue to provide critical rapid response activities, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack approved the transfer of nearly $263 million from the Commodity Credit Corporation to APHIS to directly support the response efforts. The funding allows APHIS to continue its critical work with state and local partners to quickly identify and address cases of HPAI in the United States.

“Highly pathogenic avian influenza is a serious concern for our nation’s poultry industry, and we need to continue our nationwide response to minimize the impact,” said USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt. “The agency’s actions during this ongoing emergency serve to safeguard U.S. poultry and egg producers and reduce the effects of avian influenza on agriculture and trade, while also enhancing readiness for other animal health emergencies.”

» Continue reading: Temporary removal of bird feeders can help reduce spread of bird flu

Vilsack previously approved the use of approximately $130 million in emergency funding in mid-March, and APHIS has used these funds to address nationwide HPAI detections to date. These funds have been used to address indemnity, diagnostics, field activities, and other emergency response costs.

According to the USDA, “Avian influenza is caused by influenza Type A virus (influenza A). Avian-origin influenza viruses are broadly categorized based on a combination of two groups of proteins on the surface of the influenza A virus: hemagglutinin or “H” proteins, of which there are 16 (H1-H16), and neuraminidase or “N” proteins, of which there are 9 (N1-N9). Many different combinations of “H” and “N” proteins are possible. Each combination is considered a different subtype, and related viruses within a subtype may be referred to as a lineage.”

HPAI is a serious disease and requires rapid response because it is highly contagious and often fatal to poultry. APHIS and officials from affected states are responding in accordance with Federal and State HPAI response plans, which include implementing quarantine restrictions, depopulating affected flocks, disposing of depopulated birds, cleaning and eliminating the virus from affected premises, and conducting surveillance in surrounding areas.

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