Avian Influenza (AI) type A viruses have been found in over 40 species of wild and domestic birds and cases occur every year throughout the world.
Low pathogenicity AI occurs periodically in the US. High pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is an extremely infectious and potentially fatal form of the disease. The virus is shed in fecal droppings, saliva and nasal discharge of some avian wildlife species and infected domestic poultry. Contaminated water has become a common source of infection for birds.
The clinical signs of birds affected with all forms of AI may show one or more of the following:
- Sudden death without clinical signs
- Decreased water consumption up to 72 hours before other clinical signs
- Lack of energy and appetite
- Decreased egg production
- Soft–shelled or misshapen eggs
- Swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles, and hocks
- Purple discoloration of the wattles, combs, and legs
- Nasal discharge
- Coughing, sneezing
- Lack of coordination
High pathogenicity AI is a reportable disease nationally. Multiple agencies with oversight responsibilities for domestic birds and wildlife in North Dakota have an Avian Influenza Response Plan in place. The plan includes surveillance and monitoring activities as well as response procedures for diagnosis of high pathogenicity AI in North Dakota.
All bird owners, whether commercial producers or backyard enthusiasts, should continue to practice good biosecurity, prevent contact between their birds and wild birds, and immediately report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials, either through the state veterinarian at 701-328-2655 or your private veterinarian.
- If you have free range guinea fowl and waterfowl, consider bringing them into coops or flight pens under nets to prevent interaction of pet poultry with wild birds and their droppings.
- Reduce the attractiveness of your farm for wild birds. Clean up litter and spilled feed around coops. Drain puddles or fill in low areas ahead of spring thaw to deter wild migratory ducks and geese from visiting your property.
- Wildlife Services has information on non-lethal methods to deter wild birds on their website. Don’t feed wildlife, and if you own poultry, don’t interact with injured or wild birds.
- Don’t walk through or drive trucks, tractors, or equipment in areas where waterfowl or other wildlife feces may be. If you can’t avoid this, clean your shoes, vehicles, and equipment thoroughly to prevent bringing disease home.
- If you own poultry, think carefully before visiting fairs, swaps and exhibitions where birds are comingled, shown or sold. If you go, take extra precautions before returning home to your flock. Shower, change clothes, and clean and disinfect shoes or boots before returning to your poultry yard or barn.
Consistent biosecurity practices are the best way to prevent diseases such as avian influenza. The following steps can help you keep your birds healthy:
- Keep your distance Isolate your birds from visitors and other birds.
- Keep it clean Prevent germs from spreading by cleaning shoes, tools and equipment.
- Don't haul disease home Also clean vehicles and cages.
- Don't borrow disease from your neighbor Avoid sharing tools and equipment with neighbors.
- Know the warning signs of infectious bird diseases Watch for early signs to prevent the spread of disease
- Report sick birds Report unusual signs of disease or unexpected deaths either through the state veterinarian at 701-328-2655 or your private veterinarian.
- Making biosecurity a part of your daily routine while caring for your birds can decrease the chance of avian influenza or other diseases showing up on your doorstep.
Frequently asked questions
1. Are the flu viruses of human and birds the same?
In most cases, the influenza viruses that infect birds do not infect humans and vice versa. The first case in both humans and birds was discovered in Hong Kong in 1997.
2. What are the risks of getting avian influenza from waterfowl?
Avian influenza virus infections are widespread in wild birds, especially ducks. Migrating waterfowl are a significant source of avian influenza viruses especially in the major flyways. Turkeys on open ranges in Minnesota, a state in the major flyway for migrating ducks, frequently experience low pathogenicity avian influenza problems. But the prevalence of avian influenza in turkeys has been high in some years and minimal in others. The reason why influenza viruses come and go is not known. The risk of transmission of Avian Influenza to susceptible birds from contact with waterfowl must be considered, although it may vary from year to year for unknown reasons.
3. Why can't I prevent infection by vaccinating my flocks?
Vaccines effectively prevent clinical signs of influenza infections in many species including poultry. However, the vaccines are not cross-protective for the 15 virus subtypes that can infect poultry. Since there is no way to predict which type will infect a flock, vaccines are generally not practical to prevent infections.
4. What should I do if I suspect avian influenza in my birds?
You should contact your veterinarian if you observe any of the signs of avian influenza, especially if they are accompanied by a drop in feed consumption and/or a significant drop in egg production. Because the signs of avian influenza are so variable, it is important to get the help of an expert for diagnosis.
5. Does the United States Department of Agriculture provide indemnity for infected poultry?
APHIS will compensate an individual for birds that must be destroyed using species-specific calculators that determine the fair market value of the birds. They may also pay for some other losses, such as eggs that must be destroyed.