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Biosecurity: It's About More than the Bird Flu

February 4, 2016
USDA Biosecurity Poster

The Avian Influenza outbreak in Dubois County has brought the word “biosecurity” into our daily news. What is biosecurity? Webster’s dictionary defines biosecurity as: security from exposure to harmful biological agents; also :  measures taken to ensure this security. While biosecurity is generally thought of in terms of preventing animal disease outbreaks, it is broader than livestock. Even home gardeners need to be aware of biosecurity precautions they should take.

Biosecurity involves an awareness of potential threats: primarily diseases and pests, and action to prevent those threats from affecting your livestock, poultry, crops, or garden.

 In the case of poultry producers, whether commercial or small flocks, it means knowing what potential disease threats are in the area or could move to the area, taking steps to prevent spread of those diseases from other flocks or wild birds to your own birds, and recognizing the signs of disease when they appear so that you can prevent spread within your flock or from your flock to other flocks.

If you see any of the following symptoms in your poultry, call the Indiana Board of Animal Health at 1-866-536-7593.

These are symptoms of Avian Influenza. As a flock owner it is your responsibility to recognize the symptoms of this and other contagious diseases of poultry. Steps you can take to prevent disease transmission include keeping birds in a coop or house to reduce exposure to wild birds. Avoid visiting other poultry flocks or exhibitions of poultry. When that cannot be avoided, wear boots and clothing that you do not wear in your own coop, and change immediately upon arriving home. Other livestock producers should take similar measures to prevent infection of their herds or flocks. Always quarantine newly purchased animals and animals returning from exhibition at a show. Know the symptoms of common infectious diseases for your species, and avoid purchases of animals showing those symptoms.  

Biosecurity precautions are similar regardless of the type of farm or garden. Be aware of biological threats, whether disease or pest, and take appropriate action to prevent them. In the case of gardeners, those threats may come in the form of invasive species or plant diseases hitching a ride on a purchased plant, wood, or soil. Check anything you buy at a nursery for signs of insect pests or disease.  Do not plant something unless you know its properties. Many of our invasive species were intentionally introduced because they were either attractive or beneficial. These introductions have led to expensive eradication programs that are only marginally successful.

In the spring of 2015 I had an experience that really brought that concept home for me. While traveling in the country of Greece. I overheard two vacationing British ladies talking over tea. They were discussing the attractive plants they brought back from other countries to their home gardens. The Extension Educator in me cringed as one lady talked about the geranium species she brought back to Britain from the Swiss Alps that was now taking over her garden. These ladies had no concept of the harm that non-native species have the potential to cause when moved to a new environment. In our own country West Nile virus, emerald ash borer, Japanese beetle, Dutch elm disease, chestnut blight, and many other diseases and pests have arrived due to insufficient biosecurity. Additionally the gypsy moth, bush honeysuckle, autumn olive, and many other species affect us not only due to lax biosecurity, but intentional introduction.

Be smart about your farming and gardening practices. Maintain strong biosecurity whatever you grow or raise. 

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