Messenger - Vol. 1, No. 1, Page 10
Fall 1991
Protecting Delmarva's poultry population

     The poultry population of the Delmarva peninsula is so dense that
an unidentified and uncontrolled disease could rapidly decimate flocks
and devastate the industry.
     On the front line of defense is the Poultry Diagnostic Laboratory
at the Georgetown Research and Education Center. Operated by the
University of Delaware Agricultural Experiment Station for 40 years,
the laboratory maintains a constant vigil against avian influenza,
exotic Newcastle disease and respiratory infections.
     "Because of Delaware's prominence in the poultry industry and
transportation of poultry in and out of the state, we are constantly
at risk," Ed Odor, senior scientist and poultry pathologist at the
laboratory since 1982, said.  "A discovery of a disease outbreak would
be after the fact, but it would allow us to move quickly to control
the spread of the disease."
     To monitor poultry health and diagnose disease, Odor and his
staff conduct  post-mortem examinations and prepare bacteriological
cultures  daily. More than 1,000 blood samples are screened each
month, and samples for virus isolations are sent to the University's
animal science research laboratory in Newark.
     With the addition of ELISA, a state-of-the-art blood-testing
system, the laboratory staff also can monitor antibody levels in the
blood, aiding in poultry disease diagnosis and in the monitoring of
vaccination procedures.
     "With ELISA, the testing is more specific, very sensitive and
rapid," Odor said. "Testing that used to take weeks can now be
completed in two hours."
     Approximately 18,000 tests per month are conducted with this
system, which was purchased with University funds. Poultry producers
who use the service are charged only for expendable supplies.
     "There is a saying that we're only one truckload away from an
avian influenza outbreak," Odor said. "In spite of all the advances in
diagnostics and vaccines, the biggest risk to the poultry industry is
still disease."