Hopes that the 2023-2024 Avian Influenza outbreak would be more tame than last year are waning as reports of infected farms are moving from a predominantly western U.S. event to expanding to southern states and now all the way east to the Atlantic Ocean.
Keep track of avian influenza by regularly checking the USDA-APHIS website, which shares the locations and types of farms impacted by HPAI.
Impacted Farms and Hunting Clubs Share Their Stories
NAGA has produced so much educational material on HPAI that these alerts can become almost numbing and easy to tune out. A group of NAGA members who have experienced avian influenza firsthand share their stories of survival and cautionary advice that should have every NAGA member double-checking their biosecurity protocols:
"Coming from a person that lived a semi-normal life during the COVID pandemic, I implore those with “disease fatigue” to take HPAI seriously. After several sleepless nights, we slugged through five weeks living in a control zone relatively unscathed. This wouldn’t have been possible without an approved biosecurity plan that we follow and good relationships with our surrounding state vets, legislators, lobbyists and various state and federal agencies. We gave 100% effort to follow the rules, and we got 100% effort back from the state and federal agencies. Good governance was a two-way street that worked in the most challenging five weeks our business has ever faced," said Mike Martz, Martz’s Game Farm (Pennsylvania).
"HPAI has made it challenging for all clubs and has given all of us a reason not to sleep at night. When our supplier tested positive, we were upfront and honest with our customers about everything transpiring. We sent our members a letter to educate them on the virus. We searched the NAGA Membership Directory to find birds and began calling producers—even smaller farms. We had producers supply us with a few hundred birds to a few thousand at a time. Each contact helped us find the birds we needed to survive the season," said Taylor Williams, Milford Hills Hunt Club (Wisconsin).
“Avian Influenza has the potential to destroy your business and create a mess on par with a tornado. You can’t stop a tornado, but you can implement biosecurity measures and best practices that can mitigate some of the risk of Avian influenza," said Charlie Mann, Hunter’s Creek Club (Michigan).
“The thought of a three-generational farm gone in the blink of an eye and thinking that I let my grandfather and father down … I felt that part of my soul left my body as I watched them start to foam a pen of birds," said Tim Zindl, Oakridge Pheasant Ranch (Wisconsin).
Hear Something, Say Something
While the USDA website is a good resource, the truth is that it lags about two days behind actual events on the ground. The sooner NAGA knows of a potential outbreak, the quicker we can inform area gamebird farms to give them a chance to tighten up their operations. Please share any avian influenza information with NAGA by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.