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Efficacy of Foot Baths in Relation to Preventing AI


Studies conducted by the University of California-Davis have questioned the value of foot baths containing quaternary ammonia compounds (“quats”) in combination with glutaraldehyde solution in foot baths. It was demonstrated that foot baths were unable to destroy either low pathogenicity or high pathogenicity avian influenza (AI) virus on footwear. A chorine-based granular powder in foot baths was however able to destroy virus on contact. “Footwear” is a non-defined concept. The efficacy of exposure to a disinfectant under practical conditions must vary depending on whether one is dealing with smooth-soled footwear or cleated boots with impacted litter and fecal material. 

Despite the reassuring comments made by the CEO of a large broiler integrator to the uninformed at an investor’s conference in 2015, foot baths as a single modality are incapable of preventing introduction of pathogens including AI into commercial flocks.

Simulation studies showed that low pathogenicity AI (LPAI) using H6N2 strain in feces and litter persist for approximately 24 hours. In contrast, highly pathogenic strains of avian influenza (HPAI) using H5N8 strain demonstrated viability for at least 96 hours. The authors of the paper urged further studies on appropriate methods to interdict infection and to evaluate procedures to decontaminate farms after a diagnosis of AI*

The egg-production industry in the U.S. has invested in enhanced Structural Biosecurity (change rooms with showers, blacktop roads, vehicle washing) and Operational Biosecurity (personal protective clothing, restrictions on inter-farm movement, banning hunting) which have raised barriers to introduction of infection. Applying inference from current knowledge of the biology of AI virus and the epidemiology of LPAI and HPAI it has been possible to develop recommendations to reduce the probability of introducing AI into flocks in the face of wild bird dissemination of virus. The effectiveness of current measures varies according to investment in protective measures, training at all levels of personnel and diligence in complying with prevention programs.  

*Hauck, R. et. al., Persistence of Highly Pathogenic and Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza Viruses in Foot Baths and Poultry Manure. Avian Diseases. 61:64-69. (2017)

(SMS 2,096-17 December 22nd 2017)