The HPAI outbreak that devastated poultry producers during the winter and spring of 2015 was the worst animal disease in U.S. history. It affected more than 48.8 million birds and 21 states before the final detection on June 17, according to APHIS. The scope of this outbreak presented many challenges to federal, state and industry resources and clearly identified areas where greater coordination, preparation and communication were needed. While response operations continue in the Midwest, APHIS and its partners have used the time since the last positive detection to plan for the return of the disease, using a hypothetical worst case scenario in an effort to prepare.
APHIS’ planning activities incorporated its experience from this year’s response effort, our epidemiologic studies, and extensive feedback and input gathered from state partners, industry, academia and other stakeholders. The Fall 2015 HPAI Influenza Preparedness and Response Plan captures the results of this planning effort, organizing information on preparatory activities, policy decisions and updated strategy documents into four key areas:
- preventing or reducing future outbreaks;
- enhancing preparedness;
- improving and streamlining response capabilities; and,
- preparing for the potential use of AI vaccines.
APHIS stated it is keenly aware of the significant impact the spring outbreak has had on all parties — poultry producers, allied industries, federal and state governments, and the American consumer. As the beginning of the fall season approaches, APHIS is confident that its surveillance programs in commercial and wild birds will enable it to detect the disease early. APHIS’ advanced planning and the preparations undertaken by the states and the poultry industry will help quickly contain the disease. If HPAI should reappear in the coming months, APHIS is ready to respond and committed to helping those affected by the disease.