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Avian Influenza Virus

Avian influenza, also known as “bird flu”, has been in the news continuously over the last year, and it doesn’t appear to be going away. This has produced concern among consumers regarding the safety of living near poultry farms, working in the industry and even eating chicken and eggs.

ChickAvian influenza is currently an animal disease, not a human disease. The avian influenza virus rarely infects humans. When it does, the cause is typically direct contact by humans with infected birds. In other parts of the world, direct contact with live poultry is much more common. In the U.S., it is extremely rare and those who need to handle live poultry receive special training to protect themselves.

In the U.S., the majority of our poultry supply comes from vertically integrated companies with enclosed housing, closed marketing systems, and complete control over their products from egg to meat. In contrast, in the majority of the countries experiencing avian influenza, the poultry supply comes from a combination of vertically integrated and small farmer owned flocks or from small farmer owned flocks exclusively. In all but a few of the human cases of avian influenza reported, the source was direct exposure from butchering sick chickens. The general public should NOT be afraid of the commercial poultry supply. Additionally, there have been no diagnosed cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 in the United States.


Breaking News

Low path AI has been confirmed in Arkansas.

Results of Avian Influenza Test Indicate No Risk to Human Health Affected chickens to be depopulated to protect other, area birds

The routine test procedures in use by US broiler producers revealed a presumptive positive result for tests on broiler breeders from one farm belonging to Tyson Foods in Washington County, Arkansas. The farm has with a total of 15,000 birds that were 65 weeks old.  On June 1, USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service confirmed that positive serological test results for H7N3 antibodies from 2 houses at an Arkansas commercial broiler multiplier operation, confirming exposure to H7N3 virus.  The birds did not display any signs of either high or low pathogenic avian influenza, however, 3 weeks ago the flock experienced a 0.5% increase in mortality and a 10% drop in egg production for one week.

The birds have been euthanized and depopulated with burial on site to eliminate the possibility of transfer to another farm.  As a preventative measure, Tyson is also increasing its surveillance of avian influenza in the area.  The company plans to test all breeder farms that serve the local Tyson poultry complex, as well as any farms within a ten mile radius of the affected farm.

The increased surveillance is in addition Tyson’s existing testing program, which involves the company checking all flocks for avian influenza before they leave the farm.  The test results are known before the birds are shipped to a Tyson plant for processing.

Mississippi entry requirements prohibit poultry (including hatching eggs) from states with a reportable disease without special permits.  This detection is reportable to Japan under current agreements with Japan (and any other bilateral agreements with individual countries) and an import ban by Japan on poultry and poultry products from Arkansas is expected.  Under the agreement with Russia, we notify Russia and self-suspend exports from the index state upon any serological H5 or H7 confirmed by NVSL in a commercial operation in a state that exports poultry meat to Russia.  

Mississippi Entry Requirements

"Shipping, hauling, trucking, carrying or in any manner transporting live or unprocessed poultry or other birds, hatching eggs, unprocessed eggs, rendered poultry byproducts, egg flats, poultry coops, cages, crates, and any other used poultry equipment from states in which a reportable, contagious disease, such as, but not limited to, Avian Influenza (A.I.), Infectious Laryngotracheitis (ILT) or Exotic Newcastle Disease (END), Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MS) or Mycoplasma synoviae (MS) or Salmonella pullorum has been diagnosed, are prohibited entry into Mississippi until all State and/or Federal quarantines are released in said State.  Poultry that have been exposed to said diseases may not enter the state without a prior permit from the state veterinarian.  Said permit shall be based on a science based risk assessment.

Germany raises bird flu risk level

By Janie Gabbett on 7/9/2007 for

Germany is raising its assessment of the risk of bird flu after officials in France and Germany discovered more birds that had died of highly pathogenic avian influenza, the country's top state veterinary laboratory said on Thursday, according to Reuters.

"We will raise the threat level," said a spokeswoman for the Friedrich Loeffler Institute.

She cited news during the week that more wild birds had tested positive for bird flu in Germany and that France confirmed its first cases of the disease in over a year.

The assessment level affects the measures the government and local authorities take to prevent bird flu, such as keeping birds to confined areas.


Food Safety

Ordinary safe handling practices will protect consumers from food borne illness and any threat from avian influenza. These practices include washing hands before and after handling raw poultry along with utensils and surfaces that have contacted raw poultry coupled with adequate cooking (minimum internal temperature of 165º F). In addition, food to be consumed raw should be stored and handled so that it does not contact raw poultry.

For further information regarding Avian influenza and industry practices, contact one of the Mississippi State University faculty listed below.

Canadian GooseDr. Yvonne Vizzier Thaxton
Department of Poultry Science
(662) 325-9087

Dr. Michael T. Kidd
Department of Poultry Science
(662) 325-5430

Dr. William “Benjy” Mikel
Food Science, Nutrition & Health Promotion
(662) 325-5508


Audio Files

Better Farming Radio Show (12-19-2005)
MSU Poultry Diagnostics Laboratory Director Danny Magee talks about the poultry industry and the threat of the Avian Flu in Mississippi. REAL | MP3

Better Farming Radio Show (03-08-2004)
Dr. Tim Cummings, clinical poultry professor with MSU's College of Veterinary Medicine, talks about what's being done to keep avian flu out of Mississippi poultry flocks. REAL | MP3


Extension Publications

The Respiratory Outbreak in Mississippi Broilers During 1998 - PDF (February 2003)
Extension Publication B1127.


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