Delving into animal disease response and planning

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board of animal health

Animal Bytes

July 2017

What have we learned from the 2017 avian influenza events?

Map of 2017 avian influenza affected counties

Epidemiologic report released

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recently released the epidemiology report from the highly pathogenic and low pathogenic avian influenza events in the southern U.S. this spring.

This report examines the disease spread and its impact. It serves as an educational opportunity to review past practices and plan future responses to diseases like HPAI. For example, APHIS made very important changes to its emergency response plan after the 2014-2015 outbreak. Those changes, including rapid response times and a 24-hour depopulation goal of confirmed HPAI cases helped minimize the spread of disease in the 2017 cases.

APHIS outlined the following highlights from the report:

  • Results of genetic analyses determined that all H7N9 viruses detected from this event are of North American wild bird lineage.
  • The comparison of the HPAI and LPAI H7N9 viruses showed they are highly similar and therefore likely that the LPAI virus was first introduced into commercial poultry and later mutated to HPAI.
  • Genetic and epidemiologic evidence suggests the possibility of more than a single introduction of virus from wild birds to commercial poultry with limited lateral spread from farm to farm.
  • Risk factors included rodents and wild mammals near barns, housing conditions, and biosecurity protocol breaches that could bring the virus from the environment into the barns.

Read the full report by following this link and remember, biosecurity practices remain a top priority to protect animals from disease.

More of what you need to know...

Commercial Authorized Poultry Testing Agents courses

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health and Minnesota Poultry Testing Laboratory are holding an Authorized Poultry Testing Agent (APTA) training course for employees of commercial poultry companies who are interested in collecting samples. The course is free and handouts are provided. Participants must be at least 18-years-old.

Examples of samples include avian influenza pre‐market samples, breeding flock certificate on samples, and other samples sent to the MPTL for program testing.

To become an APTA, a person must attend and complete a Board approved program training course and demonstrate correct sample collection and submission procedures. 

Two courses are being offered on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.

  1. Commercial Turkey Testing Agent Course: 9:00 a.m. ‐ 11:30 p.m.
  2. Commercial Chicken Testing Agent Course: 1:00 p.m. ‐ 3:30 p.m.

These courses are only for new testing agents.

Minnesota Poultry Testing Laboratory
622 Business Hwy 71 NE
Willmar, MN 56201

Registration Deadline: August 9, 2017. You can register by following this link.

NPIP Biosecurity Principles effective July 5, 2017

The 2015 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza event involved hundreds of poultry producers and dozens of companies and animal health officials in Minnesota, and other Midwestern states. We can certainly agree that it was an incident we never wish to experience again!

Analysis of the event and epidemiologic studies indicate that after the initial point source introductions of the H5N2 HPAI virus in 2015, most HPAI cases were due to farm-to-farm spread. Prevention and reduction of future outbreaks pointed to increased biosecurity.

The National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) worked on principles to serve as the minimum management practices and principles a poultry operation must follow to be eligible for indemnity in the event HPAI is detected in their facility. Site specific plans for each poultry farm can be extrapolated from the minimum biosecurity principles.

On May 5, 2017 the Minnesota Board of Animal Health along with other NPIP State Agencies  and Authorized Labs were notified that the proposed changes to the NPIP Program Standards were official. This included the 14 Biosecurity Principles which became effective on July 5, 2017.  The 14 Point Biosecurity Principles are:

  1. Biosecurity Responsibility.
  2. Training.
  3. Line of Separation (LOS).
  4. Perimeter Buffer Area (PBA).
  5. Personnel.
  6. Wild Birds, Rodents and Insects.
  7. Equipment and Vehicles.
  8. Mortality Disposal.
  9. Manure and Litter Management.
  10. Replacement Poultry.
  11. Water Supplies.
  12. Feed and Replacement Litter.
  13. Reporting of Elevated Morbidity and Mortality.
  14. Auditing.  

These Biosecurity Principles will be required for all commercial poultry premises with the following exemptions: Commercial table-egg laying premises with fewer than 75,000 birds; Raised for Release Upland Game Bird / Waterfowl premises that raise fewer than 25,000 birds annually; Commercial broiler premises that raise fewer than 100,000 broilers annually; Commercial meat-type turkey premises that raise fewer than 30,000 turkeys annually.

Next steps  – The Minnesota Board of Animal Health will be responsible for conducting the audits and sending an audit summary to USDA-APHIS. All audits will be paper; there will be no site visits. Audit materials may be provided in either paper or electronic formats. Producers should be aware that all audits need to be completed by the Board within two years. Some audits may begin Fall 2017.

If you have any questions about the audits or principles, please call the Minnesota Poultry Testing Laboratory at 320-231-5170.

Swine industry plans communications during disease outbreaks

Communication is one of the most important responsibilities in the early part of a disease outbreak. The Swine Health Information Center says, "Veterinarians and pork producers need to know who to contact and how to proceed in these events, beyond their diagnostic work and caring for the affected herd, so information is shared to protect the health of the U.S. herd."

To plan properly, the center and industry developed an Emerging Disease Communication Plan. It can be simplified into five steps.

  1. Exhaustive diagnostics beginning with routine testing and proceeding to further investigation if the pathogen is not identified. If follow-up diagnostics are required, resources are available through SHIC’s Diagnostic Fee Support process. 
  2. If the diagnostics point to a new or emerging pathogen, contact a veterinarian with any one of the following pork industry organizations: American Association of Swine Veterinarians, National Pork Board, National Pork Producers Council, Swine Health Information Center.
  3. The organization initially contacted will inform the other veterinarians within all the above organizations.
  4. A conference call will be held with the producer and/or veterinarian of the case, the veterinarians of the pork industry organizations and subject matter experts as needed, based on the preliminary information. Together, it will be determined what further action may be needed.
  5. Data available will be used to coordinate response options. Potential responses range from doing nothing to activation of the Swine Disease Response Council based on the information gathered and reviewed.

The Emerging Disease Communication Plan provides a structure for sharing information, informing industry stakeholders, engaging resources, and assuring the U.S. swine herd is protected. Visit the Swine Health Information Center website to review the plan in more detail.

Why relationships matter

The following is an excerpt from the University of Minnesota Center for Animal Health and Food Safety. It features Dr. Stephan Schaefbauer, one of the Board's government partners at the USDA's APHIS Veterinary Services.

"I wanted to be a veterinarian ever since I was in 6th grade,” says Stephan Schaefbauer, the assistant director for USDA APHIS Veterinary Services in Minnesota. But her interest in animal care began to wane until, as a veterinary student, she discovered that a Masters’ degree in Public Health would open the door to a career in regulatory veterinary medicine. That led her to the University of Minnesota and, soon, a residency in the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety. 

Schaefbauer now oversees APHIS-Veterinary Services animal health programs in the state, including facility inspections for export products, and detecting and controlling animal diseases. She supervises a staff of 18, including eight veterinarians.  “All of this is done hand in hand with our state counterparts at the Minnesota Board of Animal Health,” she says. “It’s not done in a vacuum.”

During her residency, she worked on projects with the Food Protection and Defense Institute, the National Pork Board, served as an infection control resident practitioner, attended the Salzburg Global Seminar in Austria, and helped develop an emergency plan for the use of veterinary students during an animal health emergency.

At CAHFS she learned the importance of collaboration with stakeholders and agencies. “During the residency, time and time again, we were involved in a few emergency response activities,” she says. “It was very clear that the ones that worked the best were the ones in which we had built relationships ahead of time.”