Multiple cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), otherwise known as bird flu, have been identified recently in North America. Canada has confirmed two cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (Eurasian H5N1) in exhibition flocks in Newfoundland as well as in some wild birds.
In the past few weeks, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported highly pathogenic avian influenza (Eurasian H5N1) in a wild American wigeon and a blue-wing teal in South Carolina and in a northern shoveler in North Carolina.
This Eurasian H5N1 virus is related to the HPAI viruses currently circulating in Europe and Asia and the virus that caused the 2014-2015 HPAI in Minnesota and elsewhere in the United States. Because there is crossover of birds between the North American flyways, this greatly increases the possibility of HPAI coming to Minnesota. The need for poultry producers to practice good biosecurity, increase surveillance and report sick birds is crucial during the spring wild bird migratory season.
There are simple measures to reduce the risk of infecting our Minnesota birds. These measures can protect poultry from a whole range of diseases. The Board of Animal Health is asking Minnesota flockowners to be aware of the signs of influenza and to implement some targeted biosecurity practices to prevent the virus from reaching your flock:
Know the signs…and call your vet if you see them!
- Signs of low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) in poultry are typically mild and can easily go undetected. In some flocks, birds may be quiet, lack energy, not eat well, cough and/or sneeze, and show a decrease in egg production.
- Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in poultry is a very serious disease that spreads very quickly. Flocks infected with HPAI will appear extremely depressed, quiet and may experience a sudden increase in birds dying without any clinical signs. Birds may have a lack of energy, not eat well, show a decrease in egg production, have swelling and/or purple discoloration of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles, and hocks, and have a difficult time breathing.
Review and follow through on your biosecurity practices.
- Review proper protocols for entering the farm and the barn. If the virus doesn’t cross into the bird holding areas, it can’t infect your birds. Reduce the number of times anyone comes enters the bird holding areas.
- Influenza viruses may be in or on bird carcasses brought home from hunting, fishing, and trapping activities. Dogs, their collars, your clothing, and vehicles may all be contaminated. Anything that comes into contact with wild birds or their environment (mud, water, ground, etc.) should be considered highly dangerous and should not have contact with poultry flocks.
- Avoid contact with dead birds. Dead birds found on the farm should be disposed of in a way that does not risk contact with your poultry. Birds can be disposed of by bagging and placing the birds in the garbage. Avoid contact with your poultry and their environment until clothing and footwear are cleaned and changed.
If your flock is exhibiting any of the clinical signs of influenza or you believe they might have been exposed to birds with the disease, immediately call your veterinarian.
If you do not have a veterinarian, call the Minnesota Poultry Testing Laboratory at 320-231-5170. Call the Minnesota Duty Officer if it is after hours or on the weekend at 1-800-422-0798.