The U.S. poultry industry is better prepared this year to protect flocks from highly pathogenic avian influenza and isn’t likely to be threatened by the virus that’s been detected on a few farms and backyard flocks this month, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Thursday.

While a few commercial flocks have been hit by the virus, “this is significantly less at this point in time than what we experienced a number of years ago that did have an impact on egg prices and did have an impact on supply,” Vilsack said, referring to a widespread outbreak in 2015.

The latest detection was reported Friday in a commercial poultry flock in New Castle County, Delaware. The virus also has been found this month in commercial flocks in Indiana and Kentucky. USDA's latest report of a detection in a backyard flock was Thursday in Michigan.

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The industry “has been very focused on making sure that producers understand the biosecurity components of protecting their flocks," Vilsack told reporters during USDA’s annual Agricultural Outlook Forum. "I think the industry is much more prepared for this. And many of the incidents that have been reported are sort of backyard flocks. They aren't necessarily in commercial operations.” 

He added, “These obviously are significant impacts on the individual producer. We don't discount that, and obviously we'll look for ways in which we can provide help and assistance to get them through a tough, tough circumstance.”

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