Five commercial turkey farms test positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza. Strict biosecurity measures urged for poultry operations.

by | Apr 5, 2022


North Carolina poultry farms and backyard owners are urged to follow strict biosecurity measures as three commercial turkey farms in Johnston County and two commercial turkey farms in Wayne County have tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza. The first case was confirmed by USDA APHIS on March 30. Three other cases were confirmed on April 2. The fourth farm was confirmed by NCDA&CS Veterinary Diagnostic Lab and pending NVSL confirmation. All five flocks were depopulated to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

Today’s Topic with Southern Farm Network’s Mike Davis
  • Last week we held an official open house for the Steve Troxler Agricultural Sciences Center and very quickly we are seeing the value of this facility as three commercial turkey flocks in Johnston County and one commercial turkey flock in Wayne County tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza.
  • We had hoped to avoid the virus hitting our poultry industry in North Carolina, but with positive cases in the wild bird population and a number of other states having positive cases in commercial flocks, we knew it was a high risk.
  • The five turkey flocks were depopulated quickly to reduce the risk of spreading this highly contagious virus. Altogether, nearly 91,667 turkeys have been depopulated.
  • Depopulated birds are being composted onsite to minimize the risk of spread of the virus.
  • Composting is an effective and efficient way to deal with dead birds because the heat that builds in well-constructed composting piles can reach high enough levels to kill the virus. The heat in composting piles can reach between 130 to 150 degrees.
  • The first case in Johnston County was confirmed by USDA APHIS on March 30, which led to additional testing of other poultry operations in a 10-kilometer zone around the positive house. That’s around 6.2 miles to put that in perspective.
  • The additional cases showed up in this zone as part of the increased surveillance and testing.
  • Poultry operations across the state remain at high risk because we know the virus is in the wild bird population and could be spread through contact.
  • Poultry farms and backyard poultry owners should also be on high alert for this virus and continue implementing the strictest biosecurity measures to protect their birds.
  • Increased surveillance and testing is in place in the 10 kilometer zone around the new locations, and routine testing of poultry is continuing statewide, watching for this virus.
  • Poultry owners are reminded to contact their local veterinarian, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Veterinary Division at 919-707-3250 or the N.C. Veterinary Diagnostic Lab System at 919-733-3986 if they have sick or dying birds. High Path AI is a reportable disease.
  • I mentioned the Ag Sciences Center earlier in this segment, and situations just like this reinforces the important work taking place in these labs and the need for state-of-the-art technology and dedicated and committed lab employees. I am grateful we have both.
  • Our Veterinary lab is our central full-service vet lab. It performs regulatory testing of reportable diseases for North Carolina’s animal industry, tests to help diagnose animal diseases, and performs necropsies in an effort to determine why a farm animal or pet died.
  • The lab performs more than 580,000 tests and over 3,000 necropsies annually.
  • It is our first line of defense for recognizing and identifying high consequence animal diseases such as high-path avian influenza or African Swine Fever. The lab also is important in protecting us from acts of bioterrorism.
  • We plan to post updates as needed at
  • Warning signs of High Path AI include reduced energy; decreased appetite; lower egg production; swelling of the head, eyelids, combs and wattles; purple discoloration of the wattles, combs and legs; difficulty breathing, runny nares (nose); twisting of the head and neck, stumbling, falling down and/or tremors and circling; greenish diarrhea.
  • And finally, this type of High Path AI virus is considered a low risk to humans and is not considered a food safety threat. Infected birds do not enter the food supply.