Avian influenza confirmed in Virginia turkey operation

Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 12:08 PM EST
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ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has confirmed the state’s first positive case of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in a flock of commercial turkeys in Rockingham County.

Samples from the flock tested positive at the VDACS Regional Animal Health Laboratory in Harrisonburg, part of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, according to VDACS. Samples were also sent to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa for further confirmation.

Agriculture officials say this is the first confirmation in a commercial operation in Virginia.

VDACS reports it is working with the Virginia Poultry Federation and USDA APHIS on a joint incident response. State officials quarantined the affected premises and are performing additional surveillance and testing within a 10-kilometer radius around the affected flock. The 25,000 birds on the affected property have been removed to prevent the spread of the disease. VDACS says birds from the flock will not enter the food system.

“Poultry is the Commonwealth’s top agricultural commodity and protecting this industry remains our top priority. We will continue to work with the Virginia Poultry Federation, and other industry partners, to ensure strict biosecurity protocols are in place for Virginia poultry producers and poultry products that are shipped in and out of the state,” said VDACS Commissioner Joseph Guthrie.

VDACS released the following statement:

Anyone involved with poultry production in Virginia, from small backyard non-commercial flocks to large commercial production, should review their biosecurity activities to assure the health of their birds and prevent contact between their birds and wild birds. Biosecurity information is available at www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/animal-disease-information/avian/defend-the-flock-program/dtf-resources/dtf-resources. Additional biosecurity information for backyard flocks can be found at http://healthybirds.aphis.usda.gov.

Since wild birds can be infected with these viruses without appearing sick, people should minimize direct contact with wild birds by using gloves. If contact occurs, wash your hands with soap and water, and change clothing before having any contact with healthy domestic poultry and birds. Hunters should dress game birds in the field whenever possible and practice good biosecurity to prevent any potential disease spread. Hunters can find additional biosecurity information at https://dwr.virginia.gov/wildlife/diseases/avian-influenza/.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk to the general public from HPAI H5 infections to be low. The proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165˚F kills bacteria and viruses, including HPAI. While the CDC considers this type of HPAI virus as a low risk to humans, it is a serious threat to poultry farms and owners of backyard flocks.

Virginia bird owners should report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to the State Veterinarian’s Office at (804) 692-0601 or at vastatevet@vdacs.virginia.gov.