With a strong possibility that avian influenza might return to the United States in the fall, government and industry groups are considering using ventilation shutdown as a form of emergency depopulation of flocks that have been affected by highly pathogenic avian influenza.

Speaking August 19 during the United Egg Producers (UEP) national briefing webinar, UEP President Chad Gregory explained that much research is being done concerning the feasibility of such a depopulation program.

“The government, the producers, the states and UEP, we all recognize that depopulation is going to have to happen faster and ideally within 24 hours,”  said Gregory.

Quick depopulation of affected flocks is important, Gregory said, because the sooner a flock is depopulated, the risk of the virus going into fans and out into the atmosphere becomes smaller.

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Gregory said ventilation shutdown – if approved – would probably only be used in a worst-case scenario or when all other euthanasia options have been exhausted.

UEP’s animal welfare scientific committee, the American Association of Avian Pathologists (AAAP), and other organizations have visited with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) about the issue, but Gregory said much research still needs to be done, taking into account factors such as temperatures, if any supplemental gas should be used, and how long it would take for the birds to die.

“These things all need to be researched and researched fast so that if [avian influenza] does come in the next couple of months, we can actually employ the emergency depopulation method by ventilation shutdown if it is the option that’s chosen with the government,” said Gregory. “A lot more needs to be done.”