Fancy chickenPoultry biosecurity is an important practice to limit the spread of disease. There are many viruses, bacteria and parasites that exist that can cause disease in birds. These can spread by direct bird contact or indirect contact with humans, housing and equipment. Some of these pathogens can be zoonotic and pose a human health risk. Pathogens of concern include Salmonella, E. coli, and avian influenza.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N2 was diagnosed in 3 commercial poultry flocks in Oxford County, Ontario in April 2015.  The control zones in the affected area were finally removed at the end of July, but 3 months of post-outbreak surveillance need to be completed before Ontario can regain its HPAI-free status.  Poultry producers, feather fanciers and those with backyard birds also need to be on alert HPAI with fall approaching, because migratory birds could bring the virus back again.  Biosecurity is critical to keep HPAI out of domestic birds, and particularly to reduce the risk of transmission to commercial flocks.

Shows and competitions, whether they’re for livestock or pets of almost any species, are perfect venues for disseminating infectious diseases.  Bring together a large number of animals (and people!) from lots of different places, in a relatively stressful environment and small space, add a pathogen and you can have a widespread outbreak in no time.

The solution (or at least the best way to reduce the risk as much as possible, short of not having the show) is good infection control practices by everyone (exhibitors and visitors alike).  The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has therefore produced an infosheet on poultry biosecurity for fall fairs, including what to do before, at and after the show.  Everyone has a role to play, and the chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so please do your part to help protect the poultry industry. These measures can also help to protect people from avian influenza.  So far we’ve been lucky in North America that the HPAI strain we’ve had was not highly contagious to people, but flu viruses are constantly changing so it’s important to stay vigilant.