Which Highly Pathogenic Disease Cost U.S. Taxpayers $1 Billion Dollars?

Outbreaks of highly pathogenic diseases not only devastate poultry farms across the U.S. but also affect the money that comes out of your pocket. From 2014-2015 avian influenza, one of the many diseases that affect poultry, spread across 17 states resulting in the loss of 51.5 million chickens and turkeys. The consequences of this one viral outbreak cost taxpayers $1 billion in containment procedures, and producers $1.1 billion in broiler exports, $41 million in egg export income, and $177 million in turkey export income. The loss in profit then caused prices to inflate, further affecting consumers.

Disease pressures have only intensified over the last 20 years and are expected to double by 2050 when the estimated world population reaches 9 billion. Poultry production is also expected to double, while egg production is set to increase by 40%. To combat this, farms are becoming more densely populated to meet the demand. Unfortunately, as the volume of chickens increase, so do the disease pressures. These diseases can range from metabolic, nutritional, and behavioral diseases to infectious diseases (Marek’s Disease, Avian Influenza, Necrotic Enteritis, Coccidiosis) caused by viruses, bacteria, mold, fungi, protozoa, or parasites. Poultry diseases can also infect humans if the meat and eggs aren’t properly handled and prepared, such as Salmonella and Campylobacter.

Prevention strategies are key when reducing the incidence and cost of diseases on farms. The first line of defense is investing in proper housing, equipment, and training programs for workers. The second line of defense is biosecurity measures, vaccination programs, probiotics, and medications. Investing in prevention strategies cost layers $0.019 per dozen eggs and $0.016 per kg in broilers, while a disease on a farm can cost $0.025 per dozen in eggs and 0.054 per kg in broilers. The old saying holds true, that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Disease pressures are going to continue to rise as the world population grows, but prevention strategies and biosecurity measures will not only aid in keeping our farms safe but also ease the pressure on the taxpayers’ wallets.