Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) February 19, 2024

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Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) February 19, 2024

by Jonas Asbill, Richard Goforth, Lauren Greene, and Margaret Ross

NC State Extension Area Specialized Poultry Agents

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI or “bird flu”) is a real threat to the poultry industry in North Carolina, the United States, and other poultry-producing countries around the globe. In December 2023, preliminary testing showed the presence of HPAI in wood ducks in South Carolina, after an apparent die-off of the birds. Additionally, there have been recent outbreaks in the United States in commercial and backyard flocks. Just recently HPAI has been detected in commercial turkeys in NC. You can read the press release.

Producers, both big and small, should continue to practice proper biosecurity protocols to keep commercial and domestic flocks away from areas frequented by migratory birds, all waterfowl, and other wild birds. If at all possible, they should not have unprotected access to the outdoors. HPAI could wipe out an entire flock when infected. In addition to routine biosecurity protocols, other things to consider at this time include: relocating flocks away from all natural bodies of water, covering the top of any open or screened runs with metal and/or plastic to prevent wild bird droppings from falling into the bird area, and removing wild bird feeders or distancing them from backyard flocks as much as possible. Also, if your birds are more confined than usual, consider adding forms of enrichment to discourage birds from pecking one another such as tree branches, cabbage, melons, pecking blocks, hanging aluminum pie pans, etc. Also be sure to limit visitors to your farm. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) classifies warning signs of HPAI as reduced energy, decreased appetite, and/or decreased activity, lower egg production and/or soft-shelled or misshapen eggs, swelling of the head, eyelids, comb and wattles, purple discoloration of the wattles, comb and legs, difficulty breathing, runny nares (nose), and/or sneezing, twisting of the head and neck, stumbling, falling down, tremors and/or circling, and/or greenish diarrhea. This type of HPAI virus is considered a low risk to people according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, but is highly contagious to other birds, including commercial and backyard flocks of poultry. The virus is also not considered a food safety threat and infected birds do not enter the food supply. If your birds are sick or dying, report it right away to your local veterinarian, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Veterinary Division at 919-707-3250, or the N.C. Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System at 919-733-3986. – NCDA&CS News Release January 26, 2023 – Please take a look at our HPAI educational resource page. Share this information with other poultry keepers that you know as well. We all need to know the facts and be extra cautious during this time to protect our flocks and our industry. If you have any questions or concerns not addressed in this article, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your local area specialized poultry agent by contacting your local Cooperative Extension Office