Rapidly increasing and unexplained mortality in commercial poultry flocks may signal the presence of a highly transmissible and reportable disease. Activation of an infectious-disease surveillance system occurs when a key production parameter, i.e., mortality, changes. Various triggers have been proposed to alert producers when mortality exceeds normal limits for a given production system to enable early detection of such diseases. In this article we demonstrate that a simple moving-average trigger is useful for detecting any disease syndrome in caged table-egg layer flocks that manifests itself as sudden, rapidly increasing mortality. We superimposed HPAI disease mortality output data derived from a disease transmission model and from a naturally occurring HPAI outbreak onto normal mortality data from 12 healthy commercial egg-layer flocks, and compared the performance of 7-day moving-average triggers to previously proposed triggers. The moving-average trigger is more efficient, resulting in fewer false-positive alerts and an earlier time to disease detection. It can be easily calculated by using a computer spreadsheet providing only 7 days of mortality data and can be practically and inexpensively implemented by large commercial poultry integrators. A moving-average trigger can be an active component of a production-based surveillance system.
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Vol. 55 • No. 4