June 2, 2015
Albany, NY

State Agriculture Commissioner Announces New Regulations to Prevent Spread of Avian Influenza in Poultry in New York State

State Agriculture Commissioner Announces New Regulations to Prevent Spread of Avian Influenza in Poultry in New York State
State Animal Health Officials Stress Severity of Avian Influenza Outbreak and Provide Best Practices to Help Poultry Farms and Their Visitors Avoid Transfer of the Virus
Current Influenza Strains are Not a Threat to the Public

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today announced new regulations restricting the movement of poultry into the state to prevent the spread of strains of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in poultry flocks in New York State.  The rapidly expanding viral outbreak has already affected nearly 50 million birds in the Midwest and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has confirmed that the current outbreak is the worst in U.S. history.

The new regulations require that all live poultry moved into New York must be:

From a source flock in which 30 birds were tested for avian influenza within ten days prior to entry into New York State; or

From a source flock that  has been certified by the state of origin as an Avian Influenza Monitored Flock; or

From a source flock certified as clean of HPAI under the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP). 

All hatching eggs and day-old chicks imported into New York must be from a source flock certified as clean of HPAI under the NPIP.

“The U.S. is in uncharted waters with this disease, and we need to exercise every bit of caution to minimize the incidence of avian influenza in our state’s poultry population,” Commissioner Ball said.  “New York’s poultry industry is an important part of the state’s agriculture economy and this regulation will build on the proactive measures already taken—from the ban of all fowl exhibits and competitions at fairs to rigorous testing of birds moving into the marketing system—to continue to safeguard our flocks.” 

According to the USDA, 10% of the egg-laying hens in the U.S. have already been lost as well as over 6% of the nation's live turkey inventory. States such as Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Nebraska have sustained the greatest damage to their poultry farms.  HPAI has not been found in poultry flocks in New York State or in neighboring states, though it has been found in two flocks in the Canadian province of Ontario.

Agriculture officials such as Department of Agriculture and Markets State Veterinarian Dr. David Smith recognize the threat to farm livelihoods posed by this disease.  With a total domestic poultry population of about 7.5 million birds, New York’s poultry industry generates roughly $150 million in sales annually.

"HPAI can wipe out an entire egg-laying flock in less than a week and we still don't fully understand how it spread so quickly from farm to farm in the Upper Midwest,” Dr. Smith said. “While we hope hot, dry summer weather will slow down the virus spread, that is by no means certain.  We encourage everyone who keeps poultry to be very careful about minimizing their birds' exposure to avian influenza.”

The Department today also released publications intended to raise awareness about biosecurity measures and help poultry farms and visitors to poultry farms learn how to prevent the introduction and spread of HPAI. The fact sheets (available at http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/AI/bird_flu.html) created by Dr. Smith and his staff provide information on best practices farmers and visitors can use to avoid carrying the virus into or out of farms.

Among the practices outlined in the fact sheets are tips for poultry farms:

  • Require all visitors to use covers on their footwear and to disinfect all footwear.
  • Lock all entrances to chicken houses after hours.
  • Ask all visitors if they have had any contact with any kind of bird in the past five days.
  • Forbid from entry employees and visitors who own any kind of fowl.
  • Discourage unnecessary visitors and use biosecurity signs to warn people not to enter buildings without permission.

Among the tips for visitors:

  • Never enter a farm without permission.
  • Wear clean clothes and shoes for any visit to a farm.
  • Stay in the parking lot on arrival and call for an escort onto the farm.
  • Do not touch animals unless it's part of your job.
  • Report anything unusual, especially sick or dead birds.

While experts are concerned about HPAI's impact on farms, they also emphasize that the virus subtypes that are causing the current outbreak are not a threat to the public. Officials stress that chicken and eggs are safe to eat. Food safety experts all recommend that chicken must be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees and that raw poultry must be properly handled to protect against all types of food-borne illness.

“It’s important for New Yorkers to understand that Avian Influenza poses little threat to humans,” said New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. “Most cases of human infection have been the result of direct, prolonged contact with infected birds or exposure to heavily contaminated environments. As long as people avoid sick or dead animals, practice good hygiene and properly cook their poultry, there should be little concern.”

Avian influenza outbreaks are not uncommon, but the current outbreak is particularly deadly to birds. The outbreak is concentrated in two strains of influenza – H5N2 and H5N8. Influenza has been found in birds on more than 210 farms in 15 states and in wild birds in five more states in the West, Midwest and South, and two Canadian provinces.  

In addition to this new regulation and the recent ban of fowl exhibits at the New York State Fair, all county fairs held in the state, and all chartered youth fairs, New York is taking a strongly proactive stance with suppliers, distributors, and live bird markets in attempting to prevent the spread of avian influenza and prevent birds with influenza from crossing into the state. Bird flocks intended for the live bird sales market must test negative for avian influenza before they can move into the marketing system. Once birds are in the marketing system, state officials verify test records and monitor sanitation levels at the live bird markets.

In addition, employees of the Department’s Division of Animal Industry routinely test poultry in live bird markets for avian influenza. In 2014, approximately 35,000 birds in the New York live bird marketing system were tested for the disease. Any bird that tests positive is traced back to its original flock to address possible infections. Any market that tests positive for influenza is depopulated of birds, and thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. It cannot open until passing an inspection and test for avian influenza.

An Avian Influenza Biosecurity Brochure is also available at http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/HPAI_Brochure.pdf and on the Department’s Facebook page.    For more information, please visit the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets website at www.agriculture.ny.gov.