Poultry & Bird Owners Encouraged To Ramp Up Biosecurity Plans Now

NDSU Extension specialists have developed tips for reducing transmission of HPAI.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is a disease carried by wild birds and affects domestic birds. Avian influenza is caused by the influenza Type A virus (influenza A). The virus is shed in the feces and respiratory secretions of infected birds and is able to survive for weeks in cool, damp environments.

While the transmission rate from animals to humans is low, it is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be shared between species. There have been several detected cases in wild mammals, including two cases in red fox in North Dakota.

With millions of birds set to begin migrating this spring, now is the time for poultry and bird owners to ramp up biosecurity efforts.

"One of the first clinical signs of HPAI is sudden, unexplained death," says Dr. Gerald Stokka, North Dakota State University Extension veterinarian and livestock stewardship specialist. "Most HPAI cases are reporting a decline in water and feed consumption prior to the unexplained death."

Decreased egg production and depression in layers may be another sign that birds are not feeling well. Purple or dry combs, being quieter than normal, frequent laying down and swelling around eyes are other symptoms birds may experience.

"The best way to reduce the potential for transmission of HPAI is to reduce interaction between wildlife and domestic flocks," says Dr. Stokka. "Wild birds and mammals, such as foxes, coyotes and raccoons, are transmission vectors to your domestic flocks."

NDSU Extension specialists have developed tips for reducing transmission of HPAI.

To reduce transmission between wildlife and domestic birds:

- If possible, keep poultry housed until the risk for transmission has decreased. Non-lethal methods to deter wildlife are available on the U.S. Department of Agriculture wildlife damage webpage: aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/wildlifedamage/sa_reports/ct_wildlife+damage+management+technical+series.

- Reduce the attractiveness for wildlife to stop at your place by cleaning up litter and spilled feed around your domestic flock housing.

- If you come in contact with or handle wildlife, change into clean clothes, wash your hands and disinfect your footwear prior to contact with domestic flocks.

- Report sick or deceased wildlife to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department at https://gf.nd.gov/wildlife/diseases/mortality-report .

- In the event you need to handle or dispose of carcasses to reduce potential interactions, be sure to follow the appropriate procedures: ndsu.edu/agriculture/ag-hub/highly-pathogenic-avian-influenza.

To reduce transmission between domestic flocks:

- Keep your distance. Restrict access to your property and your flock. Allow contact from people who care for your birds but minimize visitors.

- Do not haul disease home. If you have been near other poultry or bird owners, such as at feed stores, clean and disinfect car and truck tires. New birds should be kept separate from your flock for at least 30 days.

- Do not borrow disease from your neighbor. Do not share lawn and garden equipment, tools or bird supplies with your neighbor or other flock owners.

"The best defense against HPAI is having a biosecurity plan in place," says Mary Keena, NDSU Extension livestock environmental management specialist. "It is your job as a flock owner to create a line of separation between your clean flock and the potential unclean issues that wildlife or visitors may bring."

More information about biosecurity can be found on the USDA Defend the Flock Resource Center webpage: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/animal-disease-information/avian/defend-the-flock-program.

"Poultry testing positive for HPAI are prohibited by law from entering the marketplace," says Miranda Meehan, NDSU Extension livestock environmental stewardship specialist. "Poultry and poultry products are safe to eat, and proper handling and cooking is always advised."

To date, in 2023, there have been no positive HPAI cases in domestic poultry or birds in North Dakota. Report sick birds to your local veterinarian. If you do not have a local veterinarian for your flock, contact the North Dakota State Veterinarian's office at 701-328-2655.


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