Avian Influenza in the U.S. Commercial Upland Game Bird Industry: An Analysis of Selected Practices as Potential Exposure Pathways and Surveillance System Data Reporting

Producing a smaller yield of higher-value birds compared to conventional poultry production, the U.S. commercial upland game bird industry deals primarily in the sale of live birds for recreational hunting. In this study, our aims were to gain insights into the occurrence of avian influenza (AI) in the U.S. commercial upland game bird industry in comparison to other poultry sectors, to identify the presence of the specific AI risk factors in the practices of raising ducks on site and having connections to live bird markets (LBMs), and to assess how AI surveillance systems may have played a role in the reporting of the presence of exposure pathway-related information. We found that 23 AI epizootics involving upland game bird premises were reported, compared to 485 epizootics in the other poultry industries, and 86% of epizootics involving upland game birds were limited to only one premises. Regarding specific AI risk factors, 70% of upland game bird epizootics involved one of the two examined practices. In assessing the impact of surveillance systems, data framed around the implementation of surveillance systems revealed that the introduction of active surveillance coincided with the more thorough reporting of both the raising of ducks on site and premises having connections to LBMs. Our results suggest the need for more thorough data collection during epizootics and the need to assess additional exposure pathways specific to the commercial raise-for-release upland game bird industry.