Bird flu suspected in 3 north Alabama counties

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Officials with the Alabama Department of Agriculture say they are investigating suspected findings of bird flu in Jackson, Lauderdale and Madison Counties. Commissioner John McMillan made the announcement this morning.

State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Frazier issued a "stop movement" order for certain poultry in the state. “The health of poultry is critically important at this time,” said Dr. Frazier. “With three investigations of avian influenza in north Alabama on three separate premises we feel that the stop movement order is the most effective way to implement biosecurity for all poultry in our state.”

State officials say the situation does not pose a food safety threat, but they're calling on poultry producers to take precautions to limit the chance of spreading the virus. The threat stands to impact the state's $15 billion poultry industry.

Preliminary tests showed suspected avian flu at three sites. But experts say they'll know more after testing is done at the U.S. Department of Agriculture lab in Iowa. That testing will help determine if the strain is more severe.

The first two investigations were on two separate premises in north Alabama. One flock of chickens at a commercial breeder operation located in Lauderdale County, Ala. was found to be suspect for avian influenza.  No significant mortality in the flock was reported.  The other premise was a backyard flock in Madison County, Ala. Samples from both premises have been sent to the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa and are being tested to determine presence of the virus.

The most recent investigation began following routine surveillance while executing Alabama’s HPAI Preparedness and Response Plan. USDA poultry technicians collected samples at the TaCo-Bet Trade Day flea market in Scottsboro located in Jackson County, Ala. on Sunday, March 12. Samples collected were suspect and those samples are on the way to the USDA Lab in Ames, Iowa.

Dr. Frazier reminds poultry owners to be vigilant about biosecurity. It is the department’s responsibility to protect backyard flock, exhibition, show and commercial poultry and stopping the movement of certain poultry is the most effective way to do so.

Dr. Frazier has been working closely with USDA and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture this past week. He encourages commercial poultry producers and backyard flock owners to observe their birds closely and continue to practice strict biosecurity measures. These include:

  • Isolating poultry from other animals
  • Wearing clothing designated for use only at the poultry house
  • Minimizing access to people and unsanitized equipment
  • Keeping the area around the poultry buildings clean and uninviting to wild birds and animals
  • Sanitizing the facility between flocks
  • Cleaning equipment entering and leaving the farm
  • Having an all in, all out policy regarding the placement and removal of the poultry
  • Properly disposing of bedding material and mortalities
  • Avoiding contact with migratory waterfowl

Frazier reminds all poultry owners and producers to strictly adhere to the biosecurity guidelines mentioned above. During this time, backyard flock owners should refrain from moving birds offsite or introducing new birds. The ADAI Poultry Division is available to answer any questions concerning movement of poultry and should be notified at 334-240-6584 and/or USDA at 1-866-536-7593 if birds show unusual signs of disease (flu-like symptoms) or flocks experiences unexplained mortalities.