Avian influenza threatening America again

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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

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