Management of an outbreak: Interviewees perceive that existing infrastructure, legislation and communication practices are adequate to prevent spread of disease in AI outbreaks of a similar size to previous ones. However, they also suggested changes in the management of outbreaks including: ensuring that there was sufficient capacity for communications, slaughtering, cleansing and disinfection (C&D) to manage larger outbreaks, managing the requirement for secondary C&D to ensure restrictions on the sector are not unnecessarily prolonged, and supplying sufficient information on previous outbreaks to enable effective contingency planning for the future.
Biosecurity on farm: Despite government regulations, interviewees from egg and broiler facilities did not always agree on the biosecurity measures deemed necessary to prevent an AI outbreak, e.g. some interviewees felt that the requirement for the most stringent biosecurity was less important in units at the base of the production pyramid and others were unsure about the adequacy and importance of measures such as tyre washing.
There were differences of opinion about the relationship between disease exposure and a subsequent outbreak and the best way to prevent an outbreak, which could create conflict between sectors when tackling AI. Some people thought that if a bird was exposed to an AI pathogen this would almost certainly lead to the bird contracting AI and an outbreak happening on the unit, while others believed that a flock of birds could be exposed but could mount an immune response, so an outbreak would not occur. Those who saw exposure as definitely leading to an outbreak, believed the best way to address AI in the event of an outbreak and as a long term strategy, was to prevent exposure through heightened biosecurity, and in particular during an outbreak, by housing free ranging birds. Conversely, those who thought exposure did not necessarily lead to an outbreak, believed the best way to address AI involved improving the health, welfare and facilities of birds in general, thus increasing their ability to mount an immune challenge to exposure and reducing their chances of succumbing to the disease. The ‘health, welfare and facilities’ framing of tackling AI was a minority view which was rejected by several interviewees, meaning any measures to address AI other than through limiting exposure (and particularly housing free range birds) are likely to be contentious among the majority in the industry.
Attitudes to backyard flocks. Most interviewees perceived the risk of disease transmission between backyard and commercial flocks as minimal. The primary risk was the identification of AI in a backyard flock and the subsequent restrictions on the commercial sector. Many interviewees wanted backyard and commercial sectors to be legally decoupled. There was also an opinion that further education of backyard keepers and more stringent enforcement of existing regulations pertaining to backyard flocks during an outbreak is required.