The commercial poultry industry has grown considerably in most areas of the world over the past 20 years. With a concurrent increase in the size and complexity of broiler, layer and breeder operations, managers have been forced to focus more effort on disease prevention.

The risk of disease outbreaks continues to be a major concern to the poultry industry, and any doubters need only look back to the recent avian influenza crisis to see the effects of a disease on profitability. The movement of people, notably employees and visitors, birds and also eggs and feed between poultry farms clearly indicates that the potential for spread of diseases is significant.

Humans are usually considered as the primary route of introduction, or spread, of diseases onto poultry farms. The carrying out of duties by employee, managers or veterinarians, and a lack of knowledge, are among the factors that can result in humans spreading disease.

It is said that in more than 90% of cases, people are the cause of disease transmission on poultry farms. In other words, more than 90% of breaks in biosecurity are the result of human activity. Thus, if attention is focused on controlling the movement of people, the result may be a significant reduction of disease problems.

Visitors and disease spread

The expansion in world trade and travel have made the spread of disease even easier. A person can visit several farms, possibly infected ones, in various parts of a country in less than a day and be in another country the next. Most disease organisms have the ability to remain active during this period, and so it is highly important that farm visitors be aware of this issue.

Biosecurity is for everyone

Managers, supervisors and owners may easily break biosecurity rules that must be followed by all employees. All visitors, regardless of their position in the company, must follow the prescribed protocol which often requires changing clothes or taking a shower, wearing coveralls and disinfecting boots. Biosecurity measures apply to everyone within a company.

Temporary needs

It is always necessary to have on-site staff for specific procedures, however, it is sometimes necessary, for example at time of vaccination, to hire additional labour from outside, and these temporary crews may service many poultry farms.

The possibility of disease spreading via these crews is high since they visit multiple farms and may not be able to take the necessary decontamination precautions. It is best to train farm personnel to do as much of the on-site work as possible, and limit temporary crews only to those times when no alternatives exist.


How to deal with your neighbors?

A disease outbreak at a neighboring farm should always be considered as a potential source of infection. Limiting contact with other poultry farms is always important, but even more critical when a disease outbreak occurs. It may be the case that a farm is visited where birds appear normal, but are actually in the incubation stages of a disease. These birds may be shedding organism for a time before developing clinical disease. Consequently, it is wise to treat all farms as contaminated, even those where the birds appear healthy.

Sources of constant pathogen shed

Wild birds, backyard or pet birds can be carriers of disease-causing microorganisms and act as a potential source of infection for commercial poultry farms. Employees should be especially cautious about contact with these types of birds, as one careless or uncaring employee could cause a disease outbreak which jeopardizing the jobs of many others.

Hand sanitation

Human hands contaminated with pathogen can spread disease from one location to another. In order to prevent this, hand sanitation amenities should be available to facilitate hand washing before entering and after leaving a poultry house.

Research carried out in hospitals has shown that as access to hand-washing facilities increases, people became more likely to wash their hands. An effective sanitation product for hand washing that does not dry out the skin or cause skin irritation should be chosen. This is a simple procedure but can play a major role in preventing disease spread.


When attending essential meetings or seminars where groups of people congregate that have access to poultry, always shower and change your clothing and foot wear before attending the meeting.

Drive a vehicle that is not used on your farm. After returning from a meeting, disinfect your vehicle and change your clothing and shoes. These precautions will greatly reduce the potential for introduction of disease onto the farm.