Messenger - Vol. 1, No. 1, Page 10 Fall 1991 Protecting Delmarva's poultry population The poultry population of the Delmarva peninsula is so dense that an unidentified and uncontrolled disease could rapidly decimate flocks and devastate the industry. On the front line of defense is the Poultry Diagnostic Laboratory at the Georgetown Research and Education Center. Operated by the University of Delaware Agricultural Experiment Station for 40 years, the laboratory maintains a constant vigil against avian influenza, exotic Newcastle disease and respiratory infections. "Because of Delaware's prominence in the poultry industry and transportation of poultry in and out of the state, we are constantly at risk," Ed Odor, senior scientist and poultry pathologist at the laboratory since 1982, said. "A discovery of a disease outbreak would be after the fact, but it would allow us to move quickly to control the spread of the disease." To monitor poultry health and diagnose disease, Odor and his staff conduct post-mortem examinations and prepare bacteriological cultures daily. More than 1,000 blood samples are screened each month, and samples for virus isolations are sent to the University's animal science research laboratory in Newark. With the addition of ELISA, a state-of-the-art blood-testing system, the laboratory staff also can monitor antibody levels in the blood, aiding in poultry disease diagnosis and in the monitoring of vaccination procedures. "With ELISA, the testing is more specific, very sensitive and rapid," Odor said. "Testing that used to take weeks can now be completed in two hours." Approximately 18,000 tests per month are conducted with this system, which was purchased with University funds. Poultry producers who use the service are charged only for expendable supplies. "There is a saying that we're only one truckload away from an avian influenza outbreak," Odor said. "In spite of all the advances in diagnostics and vaccines, the biggest risk to the poultry industry is still disease."