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Informing the global poultry community

Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson

Emergency Poultry Disease Response workshop emphasizes biosecurity, rapid response

Keeping the international poultry community up to date and informed on the latest research and technological advances in dealing with avian diseases such as avian influenza, as well as learning from the international community about how they handle poultry in their corner of the world, is of the utmost importance to the University of Delaware.

To help with that mission, UD welcomed 18 poultry professionals representing 18 countries as it hosted its ninth annual Emergency Poultry Disease Response (EPDR) certificate program June 12-16.

The workshop was held on the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) campus in Newark, aimed at teaching both local and international participants about preparedness planning, biosecurity and assessment, and rapid response techniques and technology with regard to avian disease outbreaks.

The program was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) in conjunction with UD’s Division of Professional and Continuing Studies (PCS). It was led by Eric Benson, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS); Robert Alphin, instructor in ANFS and manager of the University’s Allen Laboratory; Shaun Sutherell, assistant director of UD’s PCS; Pat Allen, program manager for PCS; and Dan Hougentogler, senior research associate in ANFS.

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware welcomed participants to the workshop, stressing the importance of using the program to learn from one another.

“You’re going to see what we call the Delaware model, which pulls together all the different sectors that produce poultry – growers, integrators, University researchers, agricultural extension – and we hope that this is a good and instructive opportunity for you. We also have important things to learn from you,” said Coons.

“Poultry is grown in different ways in different parts of the world," he said. "There’s different technology and approaches that are appropriate in different settings, and my hope is that this week is an opportunity for you not just to get a great certificate, not just to meet people from other parts of the world, not just to learn from us, but for us to also learn from you. Because frankly, whether positive or negative, whether it’s the threat of avian influenza or it’s the very real promise that poultry brings to feeding a hungry world, there’s a lot of reasons for us to participate together.”

Coons, who leads the Senate Chicken Caucus along with U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, spoke about the importance of early detection of poultry diseases in feeding a hungry world.

“When I meet with ministers of agriculture or trade or development, I emphasize that we are committed to global food safety and public health and that we want to invest collaboratively in building these systems with early warnings, with best-in-practice trainings and with mutual sharing of information. That’s why we do this. At the end of the day, the potential for poultry production globally is huge,” said Coons.

Glenn Reyes, who participated in the program and works with the Bureau of Animal Industry in the Philippines, said that he works with poultry producers in his country doing surveillance and monitoring birds prior to those producers transporting their birds to other locations.

“We test for avian influenza, Newcastle disease and salmonella. Once the flock is proven to be negative from those tests, that’s the time that they get to have the certificate and will be allowed then to travel. The certification itself is valid for six months only and then they have to get retested,” he said.

The most beneficial aspect of the program, Reyes said, was learning the different methods to deal with disease outbreaks in poultry flocks, as well as the threats posed by live bird markets.

“We have live bird markets in the Philippines and it’s interesting to know that it poses a big threat in the industry. I will probably be collaborating with the USDA on how to manage, especially when it comes to those live bird markets and when it comes to biosecurity and surveillance testing,” said Reyes. “Learning these things has been amazing, and I can apply this to my daily routine at work. I can disseminate this information to my colleagues and I believe this is very beneficial, timely and relevant.”

Charmaine Wenya Chng, a participant from Singapore who works for the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, said that her home is a huge importer when it comes to poultry.

Because it is a small city-state and poultry is found in close proximity to residential areas, thus increasing the risk for potential human contact with poultry diseases, it is important to keep avian influenza out of Singapore.

She said she found the discussions on how to deal with disease outbreaks as well as incident command structures (ICS) to be beneficial.

“I think many countries in the world follow the ICS system, where you clearly separate your different roles and responsibilities and it’s very neatly organized so you don’t overly tax the bandwidth of people on top,” said Chng. “That’s very important and I’m hoping to implement something like that. It depends on your organization and the setup in your country, but that’s something I’m hoping to bring back.”

As for her experience at UD and the EPDR program in general, Chng said, “I think the people are very friendly and very focused. The first day I came here, I was impressed by how scientifically driven the University is and how people are committed to science – really doing very logical risk based assessments of situations, trying to figure out how to improve especially in the wake of the 2014, 2015 outbreaks. I think that was one thing that struck me, and the speakers who were invited from UD to speak, they’re all very knowledgeable about the subject and it’s good that they’re willing to share their research and their experiences in the field.”

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