Tricia Braid

Apr 30, 2015  |  Today's News

The Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) continues to work closely with poultry producers, captive bird owners and zoos across the State to reduce the risk of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), which is impacting several states across the nation, including the Midwest.  To date, no cases of HPAI have been detected in birds in Illinois.

In terms of domestic corn demand, poultry is the largest single livestock sector with an expected usage for the 2014-15 crop year of 1.2 billion bushels of corn, excluding any DDGS. In Illinois, the poultry sector will consume about 8 million bushels this year, an amount equal to the demand of the dairy and beef sectors.

HPAI entered into the United States in mid-December 2014. Incidents have occurred within the Pacific, Central and Mississippi Flyways. There have been cases in wild birds, captive wild birds, backyard poultry and commercial poultry. Several million birds have either died or have been euthanized due to the virus. 

“The Department is calling on everyone involved with birds, regardless of flock size, to work together to protect the poultry industry,” said IDOA Director Philip Nelson.  “This virus is a reminder of the animal health and regulatory food inspection activities the Department is involved in year round to help reduce and eliminate diseases that can be detrimental to the industry.”  

IDOA is reminding consumers that their eggs, turkey and chicken are safe to continue to eat.  “There are no signs that the current virus poses a risk to our food supply,” said Dr. Kris Mazurczak, IDOA Bureau Chief of Meat and Poultry Inspection.  “Consumers are reminded to follow proper handling of poultry products and to cook to an internal temperature of 165°F.”  Additionally, birds from all impacted flocks will not enter into the food supply.

“No human infections with these viruses have been detected at this time and the risk to individuals from these infections is low,” said Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D.  “However, similar viruses have infected humans in the past, so we remain vigilant in monitoring these outbreaks.” 

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) has been in discussions with IDOA and IDPH on avian influenza and is prepared to coordinate state response efforts if the virus is found in Illinois.

“It is imperative that producers and zoos practice their flock management plans as they relate to disease prevention and biosecurity,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Mark Ernst.  “Eliminating direct and indirect exposure of poultry to wild birds, especially waterfowl, will help to reduce the footprint of this virus.”  Entrance into poultry facilities should be limited to essential personnel in adherence with strict biosecurity guidelines. 

The IDOA, in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture Veterinary Services (USDA-VS), serve as the official reporting agencies for HPAI in Illinois.  Producers are required to report unexplained avian deaths and birds exhibiting clinical signs of disease for investigation and a definitive diagnosis must be achieved.  Anyone witnessing these occurrences must contact the State Veterinarian toll-free at 1-866-299-9256 or through USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593.

Birds affected with HPAI may exhibit:

•        Sudden death without clinical signs

•        Respiratory distress (gasping)

•        Digestive abnormalities (extreme diarrhea)

•        Swelling around the head, neck and eyes

•        Purple or blue discoloration around the head and legs

•        Decreased egg production or soft-shelled or misshapen eggs

•        Nasal discharge

•        Coughing, sneezing

•        Turkeys may have nervous systems including tremors, twisted necks, paralyzed wings and recumbent pedaling

To date 17 states have been impacted, including Kansas, Kentucky, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin in the Midwest. 

According to the 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture, 3,725 poultry farms housing 4.3 million birds are located in Illinois.  Over 1,300 egg handlers are licensed by IDOA, including 300 backyard flocks registered and licensed to sell eggs off the farm.

For the most up to date information on HPAI, please visit the Illinois Department of Agriculture at: http://www.agr.state.il.us/avianinfluenza and http://www.agr.state.il.us/biosecurity-measures/