Avian Flu and BioSecurity for your flock
USDA APHIS announcement 4/30/2022: www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/newsroom/stakeholder-info/sa_by_date/sa-2022/hpai-ak
What is avian flu?
"Avian influenza (AI) is caused by an influenza type A virus which can infect poultry (such as chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, domestic ducks, geese, and guinea fowl) and is carried by free flying waterfowl such as ducks, geese and shorebirds. AI viruses are classified by a combination of two groups of proteins: hemagglutinin or “H” proteins, of which there are 16 (H1–H16), and neuraminidase or “N” proteins, of which there are 9 (N1–N9). Many different combinations of “H” and “N” proteins are possible. Each combination is considered a different subtype and can be further broken down into different strains which circulate within flyways/geographic regions. AI viruses are further classified by their pathogenicity (low or high)—the ability of a particular virus strain to produce disease in domestic poultry." aphis.usda.gov
from Iowa State Extension
What are some signs people should watch out for that would indicate avian influenza?
Since avian influenza is a respiratory virus, it can cause symptoms like coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge and swollen sinuses; but a red flag would be a sudden increase in death rate and especially if you don’t have a good reason for why the bird(s) died. Other signs to look for include diarrhea, neurologic issues like depressed and lethargic birds, huddling birds, drop in feed and water consumption, and drop in egg production.
Are poultry products safe to eat?
HPAI detections in birds do not present an immediate public health concern and poultry products are safe to eat. There is a lot of information about “bird flu” and that people can get sick from eating poultry products but that is not true! HPAI does not disseminate in poultry products and affected birds do not make it to the food supply chain. Cooking eggs and poultry products will kill any potentially harmful things such as salmonella.
How is avian influenza spread?
AI is primarily spread by direct contact between healthy birds and infected birds, and through indirect contact with contaminated equipment and materials, such as boots, clothing, cars and anything that has contact with infected birds. The virus is shed through infected birds’ feces and secretions from the nose, mouth and eyes. The easiest way to describe it is thinking that this is like the flu in people or COVID-19.
If folks suspect they may have avian influenza on their farm or in their backyard flock, what should they do?
If you suspect HPAI you must contact your local vet or the Office of the State Veterinarian before taking any further actions. Dr. Bob Gerlach 907-375-8215
How can we prevent the spread of foreign diseases, such as avian influenza?
Poultry and small flock owners should strengthen their biosecurity practices to keep the outside out, and keep the inside in. And in the event you find dead birds on your farm or your backyard flock, or if you see signs that look like HPAI, don’t wait to call! Early detection is key in controlling an outbreak and preventing it from spreading to other poultry.
Good biosecurity is something we should practice all the time. What does good biosecurity look like?
Good biosecurity needs people to run it and a plan, and it has to make sense to you. It could be anything from limiting foot traffic on you farm, having a change of boots and clothing to chore birds, not borrowing tools and equipment from your neighbors, preventing any contact, direct or indirect with wild birds, and making sure to take a shower and wash hands after being exposed to other birds that are not yours, especially if you go out hunting.
A good trick to remember is T-I-P-S, which stands for Traffic control, Isolation, Pest control, and Sanitation.
Some other great resources:
Free eXtension course on biosecurity, avian flu, and how to protect your flock
youtube presentation on backyard 4-H flock biosecurity from Ohio State University: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnseqPmzJO4