Study establishes biosafety level at Finnish poultry farms: Hardly any variance between commercial farms and backyard flocks in susceptibility to virus transmission, but different risk factors


<div>The study completed in Evira's Risk Assessment Unit focused on the susceptibility of Finnish poultry farms to the transmission of viruses, such as avian influenza or paramyxovirus 1 that causes Newcastle disease. The study established that there is hardly any variance between commercial farms and backyard flocks in the degree of susceptibility. However, the risk factors related to the transmission of viruses are different in the different forms of production.</div>

The different production forms were assessed in terms of their susceptibility to the transmission of viral diseases by investigating the occurrence of various risk factors at the farms, and by surveying the protection measures that are employed. The study was conducted in cooperation with the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute.

Farm animal petting zoos represented the form of production most susceptible to the transmission of viruses due to the large numbers of visitors. They were followed by egg production farms where the frequent visits by egg transport vehicles constitute the most important risk factor in terms of virus transmission. Broiler farms and backyard flocks showed equal susceptibility levels, but different risk factors. In backyard flocks exposure to viruses results mostly from the birds having access to the outdoors, while in broiler production susceptibility to viruses arises particularly from the vicinity of other poultry farms and from transports between different poultry farms. Broiler farms would have been much more susceptible to the transmission of viruses had they not set up any protection measures. The high level of protection against diseases in turkey production, combined with a medium-high number of contacts reduced the susceptibility of this form of production to the transmission of viruses. At game bird farms susceptibility is reduced by the low number of contacts and long distances to other poultry holdings. The occurrence of avian influenza and Newcastle disease in wild birds at poultry farms and in outdoor poultry flocks was also investigated in the study. None of the birds that were examined showed any signs of infection.

Evira recommends on the basis of the study results that the differences established in the study be taken into consideration in advisory services provided to poultry farms as well as in the control of farms and in disease monitoring. The results of the study will be utilized in the avian influenza risk assessment project started this year. According to plans, the risk assessment will be completed in 2010.

Avian influenza and paramyxovirus 1 can cause a severe disease in the birds and result in great losses to the poultry industry. The viruses are easily transmitted between the birds and the farms through both direct contacts and contacts contaminated by the virus. Last year Evira analysed samples from 153 poultry farms, a total of 1865 birds for avian influenza, as well as 1443 wild birds. None of the samples tested positive for avian influenza. In addition to the farms investigated as part of this study, all Finnish poultry breeding flocks (86) were analysed for Newcastle disease. The disease was not found, but antibodies of the virus that causes Newcastle disease were found at one goose farm.

More information about avian influenza and Newcastle disease, the disease status and the protection measures available to farms is provided on the Internet sites of Evira, the Association for Animal Disease Prevention in Finland and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira:
for Animal Disease Prevention in Finland:
World Organisation for Animal Health OIE:

For more information, please contact:

About the study: Heidi Rosengren, researcher, tel. +358 (0) 20 77 24025 / +358 (0) 400 211 625 and Kirsi-Maarit Siekkinen, researcher, tel. +358 (0) 20 77 24030

About avian influenza and Newcastle disease: Christine Ek-Kommonen, veterinarian, tel. +358 (0) 20 77 24583

About control of poultry diseases and emergency preparedness: Sirpa Kiviruusu, Senior Veterinary Officer, tel. +358 (0) 20 77 24216

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