Site of the 2015 MA Envirothon, Quabbin Reservoir
The Worcester County Conservation District (WCCD) is one of 14 Conservation Districts across the state created as local units of government established under state law to carry out natural resource management programs at the local level. Districts work with cooperating landowners, managers, and operators to help them manage and protect land and water resources and related resources on private lands and public lands in Worcester County. Our Conservation District partners with state and federal agencies such as United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Natural Resource Conservation Services (NRCS) to assist in delivering needed programs, education and technical assistance to their communities. WCCD is a non-funded division of state government established under state law to conserve and wisely manage resources.
On January 15, 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed highly pathogenic H7N8 avian influenza at a commercial turkey farm in Dubois County, Indiana. Surveillance testing in the control area surrounding the initial infected farm identified 9 additional farms that were found to be positive for avian influenza as well. Eight of the farms have been confirmed to have a low pathogenic subtype of H7N8, with testing on the ninth farm not yet complete. Additional flock testing in the affected area is ongoing. State and federal agencies are working alongside the poultry operations to minimize the impact and eliminate the disease. All flocks testing positive for an H7 subtype are scheduled for depopulation. This subtype of avian influenza is different from the virus responsible for the outbreak that subsided in June 2015, after having affected nearly 50 million birds in 21 different states.
Avian influenza does not present a food safety risk; poultry and eggs are safe to eat. Poultry and eggs should be handled appropriately and cooked to 165 degrees. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the risk of illness to humans to be very low.
The pathogenicity of a virus refers to its ability to produce disease. Birds with low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) often show no signs of infection or only have minor symptoms. HPAI viruses spread quickly and cause high mortality in domestic poultry. LPAI viruses of the H7 or H5 subtype have been known to readily mutate into HPAI viruses and are addressed as such by regulatory agencies. HPAI can infect all types of chickens, turkeys and many other kinds of birds. The virus can be spread by contact with infected birds or contaminated materials.
MDAR is reminding poultry owners of the few simple steps that can be taken to try to protect their flocks from avian influenza:
• Wild migratory birds are natural carriers for avian influenza. Preventing wild birds from mixing with domestic flocks is essential to disease control. Poultry owners should assure their birds are kept away from wild birds, particularly waterfowl.
• Avoid unnecessary movement of poultry between locations and be aware of the potential to carry avian influenza contaminated materials onto properties where birds are kept.
• New birds should be completely isolated for at least one month prior to being added into the flock. Birds that are returning home from fairs or shows should also be isolated from the home flock as if they were new arrivals.
• Limit the number of people that have access to your flock.
• Do not share equipment with other bird owners without thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting between locations.
• Create a written biosecurity plan by actually writing down the precautions you take. This will allow others to take the same precautions should someone else need to care for your birds.
Any unexplained, unusual or unexpected deaths or other signs of illness should be reported immediately. Problems noted in domestic poultry flocks should be reported to the Division of Animal Health (617-626-1795). Wild bird deaths or illness should be reported to the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (508-389-6300). Prompt reporting will expedite rapid testing and diagnosis.
An Avian Influenza FAQ was developed by the MA Departments of Agricultural Resources, Public Health, and Environmental Protection, in conjunction with federal and local partners: www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dph/programs/id/epidemiology/cdc-animals-pet-safety.html.
MDAR’s mission is to ensure the long-term viability of agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions – Agricultural Conservation & Technical Assistance, Agricultural Markets, Animal Health, and Crop and Pest Services – MDAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the rich diversity of the Commonwealth’s agricultural community to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture’s role in energy conservation and production. For more information, visit MDAR’s website at mass.gov/agr, and follow at twitter.com/MDARCommish.
Emerald Ash Borer Discovered in Worcester County-
As you may have read in the news last month, state officials from the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) recently confirmed the presence of Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) in the city of Worcester, MA. EAB is a small, metallic green beetle, native to Asia, which feeds on ash trees (Fraxinus spp.) and white fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus). This pest can kill a tree quickly, within just 3 to 5 years, because it bores directly under the bark and disrupts the tree's conductive system. It has now spread throughout 25 states, killing millions of ash trees and causing billions of dollars in treatment, removal and replacement costs.
In late November, four infested trees were found by crews in Worcester that were checking trees for another invasive pest, the Asian Longhorned Beetle. With EAB already in Berkshire and Essex Counties, the arrival of this pest in the central part of Massachusetts is not unexpected. But while the confirmation of EAB in Worcester is not cause for alarm, it is an invasive pest and it does require communities to alter the way they are managing forests and street trees in order to deal with the pending loss of ash.
Although eradication of EAB is not feasible, slowing its spread allows communities to prepare in advance and make the best decisions about how to manage ash trees before they are impacted. To prevent the inadvertent spread of forest pests like EAB, avoid moving untreated firewood long distances. Instead, find local and trusted firewood suppliers, or purchase firewood that is certified as treated.
With this new find in Worcester, MA, it is important to recognize that although the statewide emerald ash borer quarantine allows ash and firewood to be moved throughout the state, ash remains a host for Asian Longhorned Beetle. Therefore no ash products or firewood can be moved from within the 110 square mile regulated area encompassing Worcester, Boylston, West Boylston, Shrewsbury, and parts of Holden and Auburn.
This January 6th, the Forest Pest Task Force will be holding an EAB Preparedness Forum for municipalities, land trusts, and tree wardens to learn more about what they should be doing to prepare for the arrival of EAB. This invitation-only event has limited open spots remaining. To inquire, please contact Felicia Bakaj at Felicia.Bakaj@state.ma.us
- General EAB info: http://www.emeraldashborer.info
- To report a possible EAB Sighting in Massachusetts: http://massnrc.org/pests/report.aspx