Chicken disease incident concerning to poultry sector

Chicken producers in Manitoba are concerned about a disease outbreak at a backyard chicken farm.

In late May, or early June, a case of Infectious Laryngotracheitis (ILT) was detected on farm south of Steinbach, in southeastern Manitoba.

ILT is an acute respiratory disease of chickens. It’s caused by a herpes virus that usually kills 10-20 percent of infected birds, but mortality can reach 70 percent in some cases.

“This is not a registered producer’s place. My understanding is this is a backyard flock,” said Wayne Hiltz, Manitoba Chicken Producers executive producer.

The ILT outbreak is at a small farm with “dozens” of birds, Hiltz added.

This case is particularly worrisome because of the location. Southeastern Manitoba is a crucial production region for laying hens and broiler chickens.

ILT is a reportable disease in Manitoba.

“(It’s a) significant risk to our industry, given the location of this outbreak relative to the commercial production in the area,” Hiltz said June 10.

Manitoba’s Chief Veterinary Office has a couple of options to deal with the situation, such as ordering the farmer to euthanize the flock or imposing a mandatory quarantine.

“My understanding is there is currently a voluntary quarantine,” Hiltz said. “It’s a highly contagious disease. If this was a commercial flock, this flock would have been eradicated probably within 24 or 48 hours, due to the risk (to) the industry…. It’s concerning that we’re going on 10 days now since (it) was discovered.”

Manitoba Agriculture, on its website, said it’s “not unusual to detect a couple of ILT cases per year” in Manitoba.

However, it’s been decades since ILT was found in a commercial broiler flock in Manitoba and years since it appeared in a commercial flock of laying hens, Hiltz said.

Birds that survive an ILT outbreak can become carriers of the disease and a future source of infection.

“ILT is spread primarily through direct contact between poultry, especially when small numbers of birds are frequently traded between flocks,” Manitoba Agriculture says on its website. “ILT can also be spread indirectly through equipment, boots, clothing, birds eating contaminated litter, transporting birds in contaminated crates and between sites by pests like rodents.”

The Western Producer contacted Manitoba’s Chief Veterinary Office to comment for this story but has not yet received a reply.

Contact robert.arnason@producer.com

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