Archived In Focus

16/06/2016 - 16:06

The highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) subtype H5N2 affecting turkey and egg producing flocks in the upper Midwest in United States last year, has been considered the most severe emergency animal disease experienced by the United States. From March through to mid-June 2015, the HPAI subtype H5N2 infection was responsible for the depletion of 35 million laying hens, approximately 4 million replacement pullets and 7 million turkeys. The pathogen involved was a reassortant with the H5 genes derived from Eurasian avian influenza (AI) strains and the neuraminidase genes from AI isolates identified in North American waterfowl.

A recent letter to Emerging Infectious Diseases published in January 2016 summarized important findings,  noting that the spread of the disease occurred from south to north which did not correlate to the typical direction of waterfowl migration, from west to east. Unlike the earlier outbreaks in poultry in Canada, the outbreaks in midwestern states, did not have corresponding high numbers of virus in  wild bird populations in surrounding regions. “The combination of high poultry densities and timing of waterfowl migration have likely predisposed Minnesota and Iowa to outbreaks of avian influenza among poultry flocks. However, consistent with US Department of Agriculture findings, local factors have likely also contributed to the large number of outbreaks in these states.”[1]

Waterfowl have a role mainly in primary AI virus incursion. However, biosecurity could be a critically important factor to limit disease spread. It has been considered that in areas with a high density of poultry, commensurate capital expenditure on structural biosecurity and upgrading operational biosecurity, coupled with a marked change in culture are essential to prevent disease spread.

Since the incursion of new H5N8 in Europe, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and OIE (World Organization for Animal Health) highlighted the need for better biosecurity.  “Should poultry systems with low-biosecurity conditions become infected in countries with limited veterinary preparedness, the virus could spread through farms with devastating effects, both on vulnerable livelihoods as well as on country economies and trade. The best way for countries to safeguard against these impacts is to encourage better biosecurity and to maintain surveillance systems that detect outbreaks early and enable veterinary services to respond rapidly.”[2]

Main recommendations from FAO and OIE included:

  • increase surveillance efforts for the early detection of avian influenza viruses
  • maintain and further strengthen rapid response capacities of veterinary services
  • reinforce biosecurity measures, with particular emphasis on minimizing contact between domestic poultry and wild birds
  • raise awareness of hunters and other individuals who may come into contact with wildlife in order to provide early information on sick or dead wild birds.

[1] Bui CM, Gardner L, MacIntyre CR. Highly pathogenic avian influenza virus, midwestern United States [letter]. Emerg Infect Dis. 2016 Jan [March 2016].

[2] World Poultry (2014, November). FAO:’Countries must do more to prevent avian influenza’. World Poultry, (2118), Retrieved from this website

By Pastor Alfonso, Researcher, CENSA, Cuba

01/02/2016 - 16:25

On January 15th 2016 the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) submitted a notification to OIE for a different strain of Avian Influenza (AI). The immediate notification was due to a highly pathogenic H7N8 outbreak in an Indiana turkey farm starting on January 11th2016. Thereafter, the Indiana State Board of Animal Health (BOAH) announced nine more commercial turkey farms in Dubois County tested positive, involving a total of 240,900 turkeys.

It is unclear the final threat from H7N8 will be to the US poultry industry because Indiana is the US fourth-largest turkey producer, the third-biggest egg producer, and first in duck production. Nonetheless, the reinforcement of both surveillance and response plan after the AI events of last year may help to reduce the risk of further spread and the potential impact of this treat.

Genetic analysis of the recent Indiana viral isolates may elucidate its origin. It is not known whether the new virus incursions in North America arrived via the same flyways pathway in which EA HPAI H5N8 arrived. Additionally it is unknown whether the Eurasian (EA) origin H5 viruses that affected the US last year and their resulting progeny persisted within the North American wild bird population will cause new infections in poultry but this highlights the continuous and varied treat of AI to the poultry industry.

Due to its location and the existence of natural and man-made wetlands, the Caribbean is an important wintering and staging area for birds that are migrating further south from North America. Several water bird species including those that are major reservoirs of Avian Influenza virus migrate through or winter in the Caribbean islands. Considering the importance of the poultry production and poultry and poultry product consumption in the Caribbean, biosecurity and surveillance must be enhanced within the Caribbean region.

By Pastor Alfonso, CENSA, member of the Avian Diseases Working Group, 19/1/2016

07/08/2015 - 14:08

Roseau, 31 July 2015

The Dominica Poultry Association in close partnership with the Livestock Development Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Office of the Disaster Management and the Food and Agriculture Organization held a two-day Avian Influenza Simulation Exercise to test the country’s preparedness and reactive capacity to Avian Influenza given the elevated threat presented by the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N2 virus currently circulating in wild birds in North America. The outbreaks in the USA had resulted in the destruction of over 49.5 million chicken and turkeys across 22 states at an expense of US$3.3 billion.  

Dominica’s two-day Avian Influenza simulation exercise began Wednesday July 29th 2015 with a full day of informative presentations and group work on Dominica’s Avian Influenza preparedness and emergency manual. Day two, Thursday 30th July 2015 was the field simulation where five field groups (group 1-Outbreak Investigation; group 2- Surveillance; group 3- Laboratory; group 4- Quarantine & group 5- Depopulation, Disposal and Decontamination) were dispatched to two poultry layer farms and the respective disease control areas near Roseau, the capital. There was a 6th group- Farmers - whose task was to review and adapt CaribVET’s biosecurity checklist (first draft finalized in Barbados, July 9th 2015) to Dominica’s situation.

Participants included: numerous veterinary, extension and forestry officers of the Ministry of Agriculture, including the Director and Chief Veterinary Officer; private veterinarians; poultry farmers; Environmental Health officers, Fire officers, the USNS Comfort veterinary team, Port Authority, Office of Disaster Management personnel, IICA, and representation from various media houses.

Key outcomes of the two-day simulation were as follows:

- The Avian Influenza Emergency and Preparedness Manual

  • Immediate upgrade regarding current information is needed
  • Some re-organisation of the manual to enhance user friendly application


- The field Simulation

  • Ensure continuous training of all personnel
  • Adequate supply and type of all resources
  • Transportation allocation
  • Strengthen laboratory capability for AGID
  • Determine a mean of export of samples to a regional / reference laboratory since there seem to be an issue with export of samples by the main courier service


Additional outcomes were i) consideration on the impact on the island’s national and endangered Sisserou parrot (Amazona Imperialis), ii) the impact on tourism as many national trails pass through farms and iii) the impact on city life as the capital can easily fall within the disease control zones.

To conclude, it was clear that Dominica’s first response contingent exhibited great enthusiasm and team spirit during the simulation and provided with the necessary training and resources would do Dominica proud in an emergency response.


26/02/2015 - 12:46

Services under this consultancy will include:

  • To assess Barbados’ Primary Industries to determine the status of implementation of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and/or Good Hygiene Practices (GHPs) and Food Quality Assurance Systems;
  • To develop an on-farm food safety policy and programmes as well as the required Protocols and Manuals for GAPs, GHPs, Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and Food Quality Assurance Systems as well as a Training Programme for the identified Sectors; and
  • To develop Pilot Project proposals and conduct training with internal Stakeholders in the execution of the training programme developed.

For more information, please read the attached documents. All details on conditions and deadline for application are indicated in the documents.

There are a number of other relevant consultancies that will come up later and will be on the Barbados Ministry of Agriculture’s website.

24/12/2014 - 17:13

The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) is seeking to identify Consultants with expertise in SPS related disciplines to assist with the implementation of activities under the 10th EDF Project: “Support to the Forum of Caribbean States in the implementation of the commitments undertaken under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA): Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS)”.

Consultancy assignments will commence in November 2014. The call is open until December 2016.

For more information and contact: read the document attached.


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