Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor | Richard A. Ball, Commissioner
Jola Szubielski 518-457-0752
Dave Bullard 315-487-7711 x 1377

July 31, 2015

New York State Holds Emergency Response Exercise to Prepare for Avian Influenza and Protect the State’s Poultry Industry

State Agencies Coordinate on Planning and Response to Contain Avian Influenza and Minimize its Spread in Poultry Flocks in Preparation for a Real Life Event

Current Influenza Strains are Not a Threat to the Public

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today announced that the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets joined representatives from the Department of Health, Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Mental Health, Department of Transportation, the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Division of Military and Naval Affairs, New York State Police and the United States Department of Agriculture for an emergency preparedness exercise to ensure a coordinated response to protect the state’s poultry industry in the event the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus arrives in New York State. To date, the rapidly expanding viral outbreak has already affected approximately 48 million birds in the Midwest and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has confirmed that the current outbreak is the worst in U.S. history. 

Commissioner Ball said, “We recognize the serious threat this disease poses to the livelihoods of farms in New York and have been exercising every bit of caution to minimize the incidence of avian influenza in our state’s poultry population. Our best line of defense is a quick response and emergency planning is important to make sure New York is coordinated and ready to respond on all fronts in case avian influenza is detected in New York State.”

The emergency planning meeting took place at the Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Services offices in Albany and included representatives from several state agencies involved in the Disaster Preparedness Commission.  As part of the tabletop exercise, the Department of Agriculture and Markets presented potential scenarios should an avian influenza case be detected in a poultry flock in the state. Participating agencies discussed various aspects of their response plan, including their on-the-ground activation and public awareness plan.

Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner John P. Melville said, “The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services conducts and participates in trainings such as these because it is vitally important to prepare for “worst case scenarios” before the actual threat is real. Through exercises like this one, we have the ability to mitigate the effects of avian flu in New York State.  Planning and collaboration between key response agencies will lessen the effects of an outbreak and ensure that New York State is fully prepared if the virus impacts the state.”

“New Yorkers should understand that avian influenza poses little threat to humans as long as people practice good hygiene and properly cook their poultry,” said New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. “Even so, we need to be prepared. This exercise helps ensure that New York has a strong defense against this disease in the event it appears in our state.”

According to the USDA, 10% of the egg-laying hens in the U.S. have already been lost, as well as over 6% of the nation's live turkey inventory. States such as Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Nebraska have sustained the greatest damage to their poultry farms.  HPAI has not been found in poultry flocks in New York State or in neighboring states, though it has been found in two flocks in the Canadian province of Ontario.

With a total domestic poultry population of about 7.5 million birds, New York’s poultry industry generates roughly $150 million in sales annually.

The Department of Agriculture and Markets has implemented several recent, proactive measures to restrict the movement of poultry into the state.  The regulations require that all live poultry moved into New York must be:

  • From a source flock in which 30 birds were tested for avian influenza within ten days prior to entry into New York State; or
  • From a source flock that has been certified by the state of origin as an Avian Influenza Monitored Flock; or
  • From a source flock certified as clean of HPAI under the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP).  

In addition, all hatching eggs and day-old chicks imported into New York must be from a source flock certified as clean of HPAI under the NPIP.

"The last reported case of HPAI was June 17 and it appears that the virus may be slowing down, but we must remain vigilant and do what we can now to prepare,” said New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Veterinarian Dr. Smith. “Our producers understand the importance of the proactive measures we have implemented and have been hugely responsive to our efforts to minimize HPAI’s spread.  This emergency response meeting will help ensure the state is ready to respond in a real life event.” 

The Department has also banned fowl exhibits at the New York State Fair, all county fairs held in the state, and all chartered youth fairs.  New York is taking a strongly proactive stance with suppliers, distributors, and live bird markets in attempting to prevent the spread of avian influenza and prevent birds with influenza from crossing into the state. Bird flocks intended for the live bird sales market must test negative for avian influenza before they can move into the marketing system. Once birds are in the marketing system, state officials verify test records and monitor sanitation levels at the live bird markets. In addition, employees of the Department’s Division of Animal Industry routinely test poultry in live bird markets for avian influenza. 

To raise awareness about HPAI and improve biosecurity measures on farms, the Department has also released several fact sheets to provide information on best practices farmers and visitors can use to avoid carrying the virus into or out of farms. 

While experts are concerned about HPAI's impact on farms, they also emphasize that the virus subtypes that are causing the current outbreak are not a threat to the public. Officials stress that chicken and eggs are safe to eat. Food safety experts all recommend that chicken must be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees and that raw poultry must be properly handled to protect against all types of food-borne illness.

Avian influenza outbreaks are not uncommon, but the current outbreak is particularly deadly to birds. The outbreak is concentrated in two strains of influenza – H5N2 and H5N8. Influenza has been found in birds on more than 211 commercial farms in 15 states and in wild birds in five more states in the West, Midwest and South, and two Canadian provinces.   

An Avian Influenza Biosecurity Brochure is available at and on the Department’s Facebook page.    For more information, please visit the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets website at

2015 Press Releases