Editorial: Ignoring the 800-pound gorilla
By Jon Schaeffer, DVM, PhD
Director, US Poultry Technical Services
With all the worries about avian influenza in the US and other major poultry markets, you’d think a magazine named Poultry Health Today would have made flu its cover story and surrounded the topic from every angle.
The editors told me they strongly considered doing just that. But after much discussion, they decided to ignore the 800-pound gorilla in the chicken house — at least for this edition.
Why the flagrant omission? The editors gave me two reasons.
First, they were concerned about saturation. You can’t pick up a monthly trade magazine or log on to a media website today without reading about the latest avian flu developments, they reasoned. Why duplicate those excellent efforts?
More important, the editors noted that while avian flu was a hot topic, there were still many other poultry diseases — coccidiosis, infectious bursal disease (IBD) and bronchitis, to name a few — that threaten the health and welfare of flocks every day, on every farm. Aren’t Poultry Health Today’s readers still concerned about those diseases?
Their approach made sense to me — and even more so after I got to Boston for the 2015 American Association of Avian Pathologists (AAAP) conference. There I realized that of the more than 160 sessions and nearly 100 posters presented during the 4-day scientific program, less than 10% were focused on flu. The rest were devoted to gut health, Marek’s, respiratory diseases, IBD, reovirus, Salmonella, E. coli, virology, diagnostics and welfare.
Granted, the call for abstracts for AAAP went out last fall — well before avian flu became the talk of the US poultry industry. Nevertheless, the AAAP’s 2015 program served as a timely reminder that there are many other flock health and welfare issues that demand attention from the poultry industry and the media.
‘Can’t turn our backs’
As one practitioner at AAAP confided to a Poultry Health Today editor over a beer, “Sure, I’m worried sick about avian flu — an outbreak at our broiler farms would be devastating. But we can’t turn our backs on all of the other bugs. They may not cause a farm to be quarantined, but their impact on flock health, welfare, and on profitability can be staggering.”
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JON SCHAEFFER, DVM, PhD
Director, US Poultry Technical Services,