April 25, 2015
Avian Influenza is back in the news this spring. The Mississippi Flyway is a very important and busy route for migratory birds and waterfowl. Avian Flu has been found in birds using and living in this migratory flyway. As of right now, 71 outbreaks of Avian Flu in 13 states have occurred in the US since December 2014, with 11 of those backyard flocks.
Avian Influenza has been around for over 20 years. Each year we hear of a strain of bird flu that has been found in wild and domestic birds. Many times it is reported in another country, sometimes it exists in our own backyard. Sometimes it’s a new mutated virus, sometimes it’s an old one cropping up again. The strains discovered affecting birds this year are H5N8 and H5N2. These strains are not expected to mutate to be a threat to humans. The strain of bird flu previously discovered in humans is H5N1. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, since 2003 there have been 650 human infections in 15 different countries. And these infections occurred in people who had direct contact with infected poultry.
According to an article in the Scientific American,
"Avian influenza thrives in warm wet weather. Sunshine will kill the virus. So once the warmer weather of summer arrives, our risks are drastically minimized." You can read more here.
Humans are at a low risk of infection from this year’s virus. It’s the large flocks of commercial poultry that can be drastically depopulated with a few outbreaks. Georgia, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Indiana and Ohio are large poultry and egg producing states. These states, and many egg producers in other states, lie in the migratory flight way of many species of wild birds and waterfowl. Due to the rearing tactics of the larger commercial growers, the birds are at a higher risk of infection. Mainly because of the sheer number of birds in one location. One infectious outbreak can ruin an agri-business.
Identifying Avian Flu
H5N2 spreads quickly through an infected flock, killing most of the birds. Keep an eye on your flock and stay alert to these symptoms:
- Sudden increase in bird deaths in your flock
- Sneezing, gasping for air, coughing and nasal discharge
- Watery and green diarrhea
- Lack of energy and poor appetite
- Drop in egg production or soft- or thin-shelled misshapen eggs
- Swelling around the eyes, neck and head
- Purple discoloration of the wattles, combs and legs
- Tremors, drooping wings, circling, twisting of the head and neck, or lack of movement.
Click here to read more about backyard flocks and avian flu from "The Poultry Site".
Tips for Protecting Poultry Flocks
- Isolate your birds from visitors and other birds
- Prevent germs from spreading by cleaning shoes, tools and equipment
- Also clean vehicles and cages
- Avoid sharing tools and equipment with neighbors
- Watch for early signs to prevent the spread of the disease
- Report unusual signs of disease or unexpected deaths to your local cooperative extension office, county health department or the Ohio Department of Agriculture
- ODA Animal Disease Hotline: (800) 300-9755