I've been questioning the importance of notifying avian influenza outbreaks of a few birds in backyard production for some time now. I say this, because one can be alarmed with the mere vision of the news, although one is then relieved when reading at ease that the outbreak involved 25 chickens produced by a family in their backyard, and that the outbreak was resolved by the animal health authorities. How important can it be when it also occurs in areas that do not produce poultry?

I like that there is transparency. I like the fact that it is known, that it is notified and published on the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) site. It is good because this is epidemiological surveillance, and it shows that animal health authorities react promptly and the outbreaks are resolved. That surveillance is working.

But it also affects the image of the poultry industry, even though it is not necessarily the cause.

I am not a veterinarian, so I am not able to comment with certainty on particular outbreaks. Of course, backyard flocks – like wild birds – can be disease vectors towards commercial poultry flocks. However, as one expert explained to me, if these flocks are destroyed in situ and there is no contact with commercial birds or with people working in the industry, it is unlikely that they represent a risk for the poultry industry and international trade.

There are already voices from all over the world that are working with the OIE to get backyard birds out of the definition of poultry industry. There are several ad hoc groups that are working on it and it is expected that the OIE will declare in this regard on the changes that will be applied only for avian influenza by this coming November. The Code Commission will meet in February 2020 and in May a resolution will be taken.

If these changes are applied, it will surely result in an improved international poultry trade. But this also represents a great responsibility for government authorities, and especially for poultry producers. It could result in greater and true biosecurity. Let’s not waste it this opportunity.

What do you think?