APHIS seeks vets and vaccine to fight bird flu

By Barbara Olejnik, Poultry Times Staff
Bird Flu Restocking
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
Restocking: A turkey stands in a barn on the Moline family turkey farm, Monday, Aug. 10, 2015, in Manson, Iowa. The Moline farm is the first Iowa farm to restock after the bird flu outbreak that killed 48 million birds in 15 states.


GAINESVILLE, Ga. — USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service is hiring 90 veterinarians and seeking proposals for a vaccine against highly pathogenic avian influenza in the latest moves to fight the poultry disease.

Although HPAI has not been detected in the U.S. since June 17, the government agency is seeking to be prepared in case of a new outbreak of the virus.

The outbreak of the disease earlier this year resulted in 223 detections reported and the loss of 48 million birds. The major source of the disease has been attributed to migratory birds, which carry the virus.

Government, state and industry groups are bracing for a possible return of the virus in the fall when migratory birds head south for the winter.

In addition to the 90 veterinarians, who are to be hired on one- and two-year appointments, APHIS Administrator Kevin Shea said the agency is also hiring 210 animal health technicians.

The veterinarians and technicians are among 450 temporary employees expected to help poultry and egg industries prepare for the fall migratory season. Job listings are posted at www.usajobs.gov.

Shea said APHIS is also taking a hard look at the National Animal Health Emergency Response Corps, which includes about 1,000 veterinarians and about 3,000 animal health technicians who signed up to be hired by APHIS for emergency work.

During this year’s H5N2 avian influenza outbreak the response from these two groups was “disappointing” because many were unable to commit to the 21-day field assignments requested by APHIS


APHIS, along with state and industry partners, is examining the potential use of vaccine to help prevent illness in birds as well as halting the spread of the disease.

Two actions have been announced:

  • The issuance of a request for proposals for vaccine doses to equip the National Veterinary Stockpile; and
  • Notification that APHIS will publish an environmental assessment evaluating the potential environmental impacts of using vaccine in the event of a HPAI outbreak.

“While APHIS has not approved the use of vaccine to respond to HPAI to date. the agency is preparing to ensure that vaccine is available should the decision be made to use it,” the agency stated.

The agency is seeking to create a stockpile of vaccine for the Eurasian H5 strains that circulated in U.S. poultry earlier this year.

“A decision to use vaccination would require careful consideration of the efficacy of the vaccine, any impacts of using HPAI vaccine in the field, and the potential trade impacts and would be made jointly by APHIS and state animal health authorities,” APHIS noted.

The National Veterinary Stockpile holds the nation’s critical veterinary supplies, equipment and service resources.

The NVS is seeking vaccine suitable for use in chickens and/or turkeys ranging from one-day of age up to >3 years of age. The goal is to acquire an emergency/supplementary stockpile of H5 vaccines available for delivery anywhere in the U.S. within 24 hours of order.

The placement rate nationally of laying hens and meat turkeys is approximately 20 million birds per month. With each bird requiring two doses of vaccine prior to placement, 80 million doses per month will be needed for these two sectors alone. A vaccine company, therefore, should minimally have a production capacity >100 million doses per month for these two sectors.

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