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Agricultural News

Response Training Held on Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) Reconnaissance Exercise

Wed, 22 Jul 2015 17:48:18 CDT

Response Training Held on Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) Reconnaissance Exercise
Years from now assistant state veterinarian Dr. Michael Herrin hopes to look back on Tuesday's Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) Reconnaissance Exercise as a plan that never had to be implemented.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza is a serious poultry disease and is highly contagious among birds. That's why 24 members of an Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry (ODAFF) Incident Command team gathered in eastern Oklahoma, not to respond but to prepare.

There have been no reported cases of HPAI in Oklahoma.

But on Tuesday amid a gentle falling July rain, ODAFF personnel traveled the roads of Sequoyah County to prepare in case that day comes.

Since late 2014, the United States Department of Agriculture has confirmed several cases of HPAI in the migratory bird paths known as the Pacific, Central, and Mississippi flyways. The disease has been found in wild birds, as well as in a few backyard and commercial poultry flocks.

"We expect with the migration of the waterfowl beginning in August and September, we'll start to see waterfowl migrating south into Oklahoma," Herrin said. "That is a reservoir for the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza virus. I know in Minnesota they expect to see waterfowl in August, so sometime in late August, early September we could see our first migrations through Oklahoma and potentially see positive flocks at that time."

The incident action plan objectives are to: ensure the safety of all personnel involved; determine the exact extent and magnitude of the HPAI incident; contain and control the HPAI incident to prevent the spread of disease; determine the source of the infection; minimize the financial impact to the poultry industry and promote continuity of business for non-infected animals and non-contaminated animal products.

Steps taken during the exercise in Sequoyah County represent ODAFF's Day One response following an actual case.

"Our first step with a confirmed case is to locate it on the map, draw two circles from the reported area, one of just under two miles and another of just over 6 miles," Herrin said. "We'd go door to door.

"We locate every residence, every premises, within the circles and document if there are poultry, if there are pet birds, if there are swine. Those are the animals that would be affected by Avian Influenza potentially."

For Tuesday's exercise, Herrin selected Sequoyah County in part because the county "represents commercial poultry country."

Team members wrote down the latitude and longitude, and addresses if available, of each of the premises as they drove through their assigned areas of Sequoyah County.

"Once we do that reconnaissance of that 6.2 mile circle, our next step would be return visits to the backyard poultry and doing the testing and return visits to the commercial poultry operations and doing the testing," Herrin said. "The goal is to verify that the disease has not spread from that affected premises."

ODAFF will reflect on the exercise to see what worked well on Tuesday and to determine if there are ways to improve efficiency of the reconnaissance.

"We give our people here today the experience of what the number one step will be if we have a confirmed case, so we'll be able to hit the road running," Herrin said.

Again, Herrin stressed that he hopes the plan will never be needed. But Tuesday's exercise was one more step ODAFF has taken to be ready to respond in the event of a confirmed HPAI case in the state.

"Our mission is to protect the herds and flocks of the livestock industries in Oklahoma and the more efficient we can be in this, in handling a positive case, the quicker and more efficiently we can get the reconnaissance done, then it's that much sooner that commercial operations can resume their business," Herrin said.

Pictured above - Dr. Justin Roach, Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (ODAFF) Staff Veterinarian, left, and Rob Pinkston, an ODAFF Livestock Inspector, are shown Tuesday as an ODAFF Incident Command team prepared to participate in a "Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) Reconnaissance Exercise" near Sallisaw.



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