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Asian bird flu (H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza) could most likely spread to commercial flocks through contact with infected wild birds. The top priority is therefore to prevent such contact. Numerous barriers are in place to accomplish this, including:
Sheltered Production Conditions
In the United States, nearly all commercial chickens and turkeys are grown in enclosed housing with restricted access to the outdoors. The animals simply never go outside and are kept in the same building from shortly after they hatch until they are taken to the processing plant. Wild birds are not allowed into the buildings.
This is very different from conditions in Asia, where chickens and other poultry are allowed to run at large and mix with wild birds that may be carrying the virus. Human cases of avian influenza are typically associated with these types of “village chickens” or backyard poultry. Click here for more information.
Biosecurity on the Farm
Poultry growers (farmers) and the companies with whom they work are keenly aware of the need for biosecurity, the prevention of infection by physical barriers. Access to farms is strictly limited; plastic boot covers and disinfectant foot baths are encouraged; and growers are not permitted to have other types of poultry on their farms, among other precautions.
The United States supply of poultry is overwhelmingly domestic in origin, with all of the turkey and about 99.8% of the chicken consumed in the U.S. being produced in the U.S. The only exception is a small amount of chicken that comes from Canada, which has veterinary and sanitary control systems recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as equivalent to our own.
Furthermore, USDA has officially banned imports from any country or region that has had Asian bird flu in domestic poultry. Therefore, there is no danger of Asian bird flu entering the U.S. via lawful imports, and federal authorities are also on the alert for smuggled product or animals.