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Perspectives of an underrepresented stakeholder group, backyard flock owners, on poultry health and avian influenza control

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This study examines backyard poultry flock owners perspectives about bird health and highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in order to understand how they compare to previous reports of public responses to emerging infectious diseases and how they might influence compliance with government HPAI control activities. We conducted interviews with backyard flock owners in southwestern British Columbia, Canada because it has a high density of commercial and backyard poultry flocks and is the location of three recent HPAI outbreaks, including a large outbreak in 2004 in which 553 backyard flocks were culled. We used a qualitative open-ended interview method to build trust with interviewees and collect rich data, and latent content analysis to extract participants’ perspectives from the interview transcripts. The 18 backyard flock owners interviewed saw their poultry as very different from commercial poultry. They kept birds for emotional reasons, to provide food, and to preserve poultry genetic diversity. They stated that small flock husbandry methods, including access to the outdoors, were important for the health of their flock. They viewed HPAI as a trade concern for commercial poultry farms and distrusted government’s motivation for and technical proficiency at implementing disease control activities in backyard flocks. Participants felt that government’s role should be to keep people informed about where infected farms were located and to provide information on how to self-quarantine backyard flocks and where to report potential cases. All participants stated that before they would support culling of their flock, their birds would need to show clinical signs of disease or have a positive test for avian influenza. These perspectives were not well aligned with current Canadian HPAI control policies.
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Keywords: avian influenza; backyard flock; government; notifiable animal disease; poultry

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Population Medicine,University of Guelph, Guelph, Canada 2: Department of Ecosystem & Public Health,University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada 3: Independent Consultant, Parma, Italy

Publication date: 2013-02-01

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