Antibodies to a low-path strain of avian influenza (AI) were detected in a flock of 25,000 toms on a farm contracted with the Virginia Poultry Grower’s Cooperative in the last week in March. The flock had not exhibited any signs of illness, and this strain of AI, H5N2, is not related to the Asian strain which has been associated with outbreaks in numerous countries in Europe, Asia and Africa.

Testing of poultry flocks prior to marketing has been in place in West Virginia since the 2002 outbreak of H7N2 AI in Virginia, when one farm in West Virginia tested positive.

The birds were all euthanized with foam within days of the positive test result, and the carcasses are being composted on the farm. It is expected that the composting process will take six weeks.

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Using foam to depopulate poultry houses is a relatively new procedure and was just approved by the USDA last fall. A North Carolina depopulation team and poultry extension specialist George “Bud” Malone, University of Delaware, brought expertise and equipment to the farm to help with the depopulation.

Malone said in the Lancaster Farmer that it is important for states to have cooperative agreements in place before a disease is detected so that depopulation of the farm can proceed without any delays.

Poultry house cleanouts and spreading of poultry litter was briefly suspended by the West Virginia commissioner of agriculture in five West Virginia counties following the discovery of AI on the one farm. All commercial poultry within a six-mile radius of the farm have been tested for AI, and all tests have been negative. At time of press, bans on any poultry litter-related activities remain in effect in parts of Pendleton County within a two-mile radius of the affected farm.