The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in birds in two states: a backyard flock of mixed species birds in Fauquier County, Virginia, and a flock of commercial broiler chickens in Fulton County, Kentucky.
This was the first time the disease has been found in Virginia, and poultry owners and industry members alike need to take precautions to protect their flocks from the incurable disease, says Michael Persia, an associate professor and Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist of poultry nutrition and management in the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences.
Anyone involved with poultry production from the small backyard to the large commercial producer should review their biosecurity activities to assure the health of their birds. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has materials about biosecurity, including videos, checklists, and an available toolkit.
“The disease could be economically devastating to industry and could also cause backyard owners to lose their entire flock,” Persia says. “To help protect flocks, it’s important to take practical biosecurity measures to reduce and eliminate potential sources of infection.”
These safety measures include:
Reducing and eliminating any interaction with wild birds, especially migratory water fowl, who carry the disease.
Keeping birds indoors. If not possible, keep the birds under cover outdoors.
Using a dedicated pair of footwear for taking care of the birds to reduce the chance of bringing something into their habitat.
Not feeding or providing water outside. Feeding and hydration should be done indoors, which discourages wild birds from interacting with the habitat.
Wearing clean clothes or having a dedicated coverall when interacting with the birds.
Washing hands before and after any bird interactions.
While poultry owners may not know if their birds have the disease, common symptoms of avian influenza are often present:
Unexplained mortality. If this is seen, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services should be contacted immediately.
The birds are quieter than normal.
Decrease in feed or water intake.
Diarrhea with a green hue.
Sneezing or coughing, as avian influenza is a respiratory disease.
Discolored and swollen face/head and hocks.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these avian influenza detections do not present an immediate public health concern. No human cases of these avian influenza viruses have been detected in the United States.
As a reminder, the proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit kills bacteria and viruses.
To help reduce the spread of the avian influenza, report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to the State Veterinarian’s Office at 804-786-2483 or at email@example.com or through the USDA’s toll-free number, 866-536-7593.