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NC PREP Newsletter: Biosecurity Basics-Practices to Keep Your Flock Healthy
North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services
Veterinary Division--Poultry

What is biosecurity?
Biosecurity involves the use of husbandry practices that help protect your animals from infectious diseases. Backyard poultry can become sick, suffer, and die by being exposed to unseen disease agents like bacteria, viruses, internal parasites, and certain types of fungi.

Why is biosecurity important?
Certain things in the environment can help disease agents multiply and become more likely to cause disease. These disease agents can hide on equipment, shoes, clothing, hands, in the soil, and even in your hair! By practicing backyard biosecurity, starting with the steps outlined in this handout, you can make the environment safer for your birds.

In addition to protecting your flock, it is important to note that some of these diseases can affect humans. This means that when you are using biosecurity, you are helping to keep your birds, as well as you, your family, friends, and community, healthy and safe.

6 Ways to Prevent Poultry Diseases
There are many husbandry practices you can use to help prevent infectious poultry diseases. Here are some key strategies:

1. Protect Your Flock’s Environment
Keep your flock’s environment isolated from contact with other animals and people. To read further for more specific recommendations, please

2. Keep Things Clean
Contaminated people or items can carry disease agents to your flock and a dirty environment can increase the chances of your flock getting a preventable disease. To read further for more specific recommendations, please

3. Take Precautions with New and Returning Birds
Any new birds or returning birds that have been around other birds/flocks have potentially been exposed to disease. It sometimes takes birds a long time to become sick after being exposed so they may not be showing signs of disease. It is strongly recommended to quarantine new and returning birds at least 30 days to reduce the risk of them bringing diseases into your flock. For more specific recommendations, please

4. Don’t Borrow Disease from Your Neighbor
Do not expose your flock to your neighbors’ birds or equipment that comes into contact with their birds. This will help reduce the risk of your flock being exposed to diseases. For further specific recommendations, please

5. Prevent Germs from Getting a Free Ride
Disease agents can be carried to/from your flock through vehicles, especially tires. If you travel to a location where other birds are present, or even to the feed store, disinfect tires before you return to your property. It may be easiest to go through a car wash.

6. Keep Sick Birds Separate
If any birds in your flock appear sick, remove them from the flock and isolate them to reduce the chance of disease spreading to the rest of the flock. For more specific recommendations, please

Make these practices part of your routine because biosecurity is an investment in the health of your birds, your family, and your community! Other poultry health topics can be found on our NCPREP website NCPREP.org. New information will be added monthly.

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NC PREP Newsletter: What does it mean to be Quarantined?
North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services
Veterinary Division--Poultry

What is Quarantine?
Flocks are placed under quarantine when certain harmful contagious disease agents are detected. This is very important because it helps prevent the spread of disease to other birds. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) will be in contact with you about your flock if it is infected with Mycoplasma, Infectious Laryngotracheitis (ILT), Avian Influenza (AI), Exotic Newcastle Disease, or another reportable disease.

Quarantine Procedures

  • No poultry may leave your farm without a permit, even if they appear to be healthy
  • Any birds within your flock that die must be disposed of on your farm
  • Biosecurity must be strict to prevent spread of disease to others (see the NCPREP newsletter on “Biosecurity Basics” for further information)
  • The birds’ environment must be cleaned and disinfected with an appropriate disinfectant
  • Flocks will be quarantined for Mycoplasma gallisepticum or Infectious Laryngotracheitis (ILT) for at least 45 days after the birds’ stop showing signs of disease
  • Prior to being released from quarantine status, the NCDA&CS will need to perform an inspection of the flock and premises

Please remember that the procedures performed by the NCDA&CS are based on past experiences and research into how best to keep our poultry flocks safe and healthy. We understand that these birds are an important part of your life and want to help you be the best poultry caretaker possible.

The NCDA&CS can help you learn more about buying birds from flocks that are free of certain diseases. It is important to understand that if your birds are infected with Mycoplasma or Infectious Laryngotracheitis (ILT), any new birds you bring into your flock will be at risk of developing these diseases after exposure to your current birds.

Many diseases can spread readily and can be devastating to your neighbor’s flocks. Some viruses can spread through the air on feathers or dust from infected birds. It is important to use biosecurity practices to minimize their spread and keep the poultry in your area healthy. To learn more, see NCPREP newsletter on “Biosecurity Basics.”

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NC PREP Newsletter: Protecting Your Flock from Infectious Laryngotracheitis
North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services
Veterinary Division--Poultry

Infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT) is a respiratory disease caused by a herpes virus. ILT mostly affects chickens, but can infect other types of birds. ILT is spread through air contaminated with virus (from coughing, sneezing, etc.). Additionally, the virus itself can be carried on clothes, boots, and equipment for short periods of time. Unfortunately, once ILT infects a bird, that bird will remain infected for life and will have the ability to spread the disease even if they appear to be healthy. Periods of stress (overcrowding, presence of another disease, poor nutrition, etc.) can increase the likelihood of an infected bird to shed the disease.

Signs of ILT
Infected birds may exhibit none or one or more of the following signs:

  • Respiratory disease ( for more details)
  • Depressed birds ( for more details)
  • In severe infections, some birds may die

Prevention
Unfortunately, once a bird is infected with ILT it will become a lifelong carrier of the disease making it difficult to eliminate from your flock. Therefore, prevention is key. Prevent both spreading this disease and bringing it to your farm with strong biosecurity practices. See the NCPREP newsletter on “Biosecurity Basics” for strategies to keep your flock healthy.

If you suspect an ILT infection in your flock, please consult with your local veterinarian who sees poultry. Our list of poultry veterinarians in North Carolina can be found here. If a bird tests positive for ILT, it is required to be reported to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The infected flock will be placed under quarantine. A flock can be removed from quarantine 45 days after symptoms have resolved. See the NCPREP newsletter on “What Does It Mean to Be Under Quarantine?” for more information about this process.

Public Health
ILT does not currently pose any threat to human health and safety.

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NC PREP Newsletter: Protecting Your Flock Mycoplasma
North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services
Veterinary Division--Poultry

Mycoplasma is a group of bacteria which can cause serious disease in poultry. The most important types of Mycoplasma in poultry are Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG) and Mycoplasma synoviae (MS), which are seen in chickens and turkeys, and Mycoplasma meleagridis (MM), which is seen only in turkeys. Mycoplasma may be spread by infected birds through the respiratory tract (coughing, sneezing, etc.), the reproductive tract (during mating), and the egg (infecting baby chicks and poults). Unfortunately, infected birds will remain infected for life and have the ability to spread the disease to other birds even if they appear healthy.

Signs of Mycoplasma in poultry
Your flock may show none or one or more of these signs:

  • Respiratory disease ( for more details)
  • Lameness ( for more details)
  • Fluffed or Depressed birds ( for more details)
  • Decreased egg production
  • In severe infections, some birds may die from the disease

Prevention
Unfortunately, birds infected with this disease will remain infected for life, even if they appear healthy. Because these birds harbor the infection, they can shed the bacteria during times of stress (overcrowding, other disease, poor nutrition, bad weather, etc.) and infect other birds. Once a flock is infected, it is difficult to eliminate the disease. Therefore, prevention is key. To prevent the disease from entering your flock, be sure to practice strict biosecurity. Minimize contact with wild and pet birds, as they can also spread Mycoplasma to your poultry. See the NC PREP newsletter on “Biosecurity Basics” for strategies that are important for every owner of backyard poultry to know. If you suspect a Mycoplasma infection in your flock or are interested in testing options, please consult with your local veterinarian who sees poultry. Our list of poultry veterinarians in North Carolina can be found here.

Birds that test positive for Mycoplasma gallisepticum or Mycoplasma synoviae must be reported to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS). If a bird tests positive for Mycoplasma gallisepticum, the flock will be placed under quarantine. Flocks will be quarantined for at least 45 days after the birds stop showing signs of disease. See the NCPREP newsletter on “What Does It Mean to Be Under Quarantine?” for more information about this process. Flocks that test positive for Mycoplasma synoviae will not be quarantined, but you must still report the disease so that NCDA&CS can help you better understand what this means for your flock.

Public Health
The Mycoplasma bacteria mentioned in this newsletter do not pose any threat to human health and safety.

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NC PREP Newsletter (January 2019): Protecting Your Flock from Avian Influenza
North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services
Veterinary Division--Poultry

Avian influenza (AI), also known as bird flu or fowl plague, is a disease caused by avian influenza A virus. Avian influenza is divided into two categories based on how severe the illness. These two categories are low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) and highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). To learn more about each of these categories, please click

While some types of avian influenza cause only mild illness in birds, the virus can mutate into a more dangerous version that could be potentially fatal. It is because of the virus’ ability to mutate quickly that any type of avian influenza is reportable to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Avian influenza can be spread in many ways including through air contaminated with virus (from coughing, sneezing, etc.) and feces. The virus can also be carried to and from flocks on clothing, boots, and equipment.

Signs of Avian Influenza in Poultry
Your flock may have none or one or more of these signs:

  • Respiratory disease ( for more details)
  • Nervous system signs ( for more details)
  • Depressed birds ( for more details)
  • Decreased egg production ( for more details)
  • Some birds may develop diarrhea ( for more details)
  • Depending on the type of Avian influenza virus, the disease can cause rapid death in one, some, or all of your birds in the flock. This can happen within hours.

Prevention
This disease can spread very rapidly to your entire flock, as well as to neighbors’ flocks. Prevent spread of this disease to/from your flock with strict biosecurity. Waterfowl and wild birds can oftentimes carry the AI virus, so it is important to keep wild birds like ducks and geese away from your poultry. These wild birds can carry the disease without showing signs of illness, so it is important to minimize contact regardless of how healthy the wild birds appear. See our NC PREP newsletter on “Biosecurity Basics” for strategies to help keep your flock healthy. If your flock shows any signs of AI, please consult with your local veterinarian who sees poultry. Our list of poultry veterinarians in North Carolina can be found here. If a bird tests positive for AI, it is required to be reported to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Public Health
Avian influenza and human influenza are not the same types of influenza virus. The vast majority of avian influenza types do not affect human health. Although rare, in other countries, clusters of severe human cases of avian influenza have occurred. Symptoms in humans infected with AI are very similar to that of the seasonal influenza. Symptoms include fever, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, difficulty breathing, muscle-aches, headaches, and gastrointestinal upset (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.). If you experience these symptoms, please contact your physician for further advice and recommendations. To be sure that human infections of AI do not occur in the United States, this disease is reportable to the NCDA&CS.

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NCDA&CS Veterinary Division, Dr. R. Douglas Meckes - State Veterinarian
Mailing Address: 1030 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1030
Physical Address: 2 West Edenton Street, Raleigh, NC 27601
Phone: (919) 707-3250 Fax: (919) 733-2277


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