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on April 22, 2016

Preparing for future outbreaks of AI

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey summarizes steps that were taken in 2015 and outlines strategies going forward

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey recently highlighted the preparations that have taken place by Iowa poultry farmers and by the state and federal governments to better prepare for another potential outbreak of avian influenza.

“As we approach the first anniversary of avian influenza in Iowa it is important to highlight the steps taken by poultry industry and the state and federal government to prepare to respond even more quickly should we see the disease again. The progress that has been made to recover from this devastating animal health emergency and prepare for any future outbreaks is a testament to the resiliency and commitment of our state’s poultry farmers,” Northey said

“Poultry farmers have made significant investments to improve biosecurity to prevent the disease from getting on their farm and are monitoring their birds closely so we catch the disease early should it appear. In addition, both federal and state governments have updated our disease response plans and are ready to implement them. If the disease does appear, the poultry industry and state and federal partners all have the goal of having any infected flocks depopulated within 24 hours to help control the disease and limit its spread. After the outbreak last spring everyone understands that we need to respond more quickly to eliminate the disease on the farm which reduces the chance it can move and infect more birds,” added Northey.

Biosecurity important for farmers

Iowa poultry farmers have updated their biosecurity measures and made significant investments to help prevent the disease from getting on their farm. All poultry farms need to have a biosecurity plan to qualify for USDA indemnification.

It is recommended all livestock premises have an official premises identification number, which may be obtained for free by contacting the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Information on how to obtain premise identification can be found at or by calling the Department toll free at 888-778-7675.

The Center for Food Security and Public Health, Iowa State University, College of Veterinary Medicine has produced numerous materials to help farmers update biosecurity measures on their farm. Suggestions include:

  • Establish a line of separation to isolate poultry from potential sources of avian influenza infection. Follow biosecurity protocols for any person or materials that cross the line.
  • Create a perimeter buffer area as an outer control boundary, set up around the poultry houses to keep vehicles and equipment which have not been cleaned and disinfected and personnel not following biosecurity entry protocols from contaminating areas near the poultry houses.
  • Employees play a very important role in securing the health of birds on a housing site. By following specific biosecurity steps, employees can minimize the risk of bringing avian influenza virus to a site.
  • Pests such as wild birds, rodents, and insects can carry avian influenza (AI) onto a housing site. Biosecurity measures can help keep pests out and ensure the health of the birds on a site.
  • Follow proper cleaning and disinfection protocol for all equipment
  • Dead birds should be disposed of in a manner that prevents the attraction of wild birds, rodents, and other animals and avoids the potential for cross-contamination with birds from other facilities.
  • Manure and spent litter should be removed in a manner to prevent exposure of susceptible poultry (either on or off the farm of origin) to avian influenza virus.

More information can be found at

Ongoing plans

In addition to the work by poultry farmers, state and federal partners have taken numerous steps to learn from the incident last year and prepare for any future outbreaks.

The Iowa response to avian influenza operates under a Unified Command involving the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) and USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Veterinary Services. We also work closely with partners in the Poultry industry as well as other state agencies, including the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Iowa Department of Public Health, Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Planning steps that have been taken include:

  • Following the outbreak last year, both agencies participated in after action reviews to evaluate the response and identify areas for improvement.
  • Both IDALS and USDA APHIS have committed to depopulating affected birds within 24-hours to reduce the amount of virus in the environment and minimize the risk of the disease spreading to and killing other birds.
  • IDALS has met with Iowa Turkey Federation, representatives from Tyson and West Liberty Foods, and ISU Extension several times to discuss biosecurity preparedness, composting protocols, and other proactive policies for improving readiness.
  • IDALS, in conjunction with Iowa DNR and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, have created guidance document for poultry premises to assist in preparedness and planning for avian influenza.
  • Convened meetings with individual livestock groups to discuss animal health emergency planning and revising and updating the statewide Foreign Animal Disease (FAD) plan.

2015 avian influenza outbreak summary

The USDA has described the H5N2 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza outbreak of 2015 as the largest animal health emergency in U.S. history. Nationwide there were 223 detections of HPAI from Dec. 19, 2014, through June 17, 2015. There were 48 million birds in 21 states affected, but Iowa and Minnesota were the most severely impacted.

In Iowa, there were a total of 77 premises in 18 counties and 31.5 million birds were affected with the disease. The first case was confirmed on April 14, 2015 on a turkey farm in Buena Vista County. The final case was confirmed on June 17 at layer farm in Wright County. In total there were 35 commercial turkey flocks, 22 commercial egg production flocks, 13 pullet flocks, 1 chicken breeding flock, 1 mail order hatchery, and 5 backyard flocks impacted by the disease.

All HPAI quarantines have been lifted and all but one of the 72 commercial poultry farms that had quarantines on their facilities having begun the restocking process or are fully restocked. To lift the quarantine, all sites completed the cleaning and disinfection process and had negative environmental tests. They also underwent a 21-day fallow period following disinfection.

The Department had responsibility for maintaining safe movement of poultry and poultry products from farms that were affected by HPAI. IDALS issued a total of 3,700 movement permits to 42 states and the Virgin Islands. This includes 2,323 permits issued for movements within Iowa and 1,377 permits have been issued for movements out of state.

Links for additional information

Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Avian Influenza Page

Iowa State University Egg Industry Center

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