Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Keeping Backyard Poultry Safe from Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)

There has been a lot in the news lately about HPAI:

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N8 has been confirmed in ONE commercial turkey flock in Waterford, Stanislaus County, California.   There have been no confirmed cases in backyard chickens.
As always, backyarders and fanciers are urged to practice good biosecurity.  Birds that have been exhibited at poultry shows should be quarantined when owners return home, before the birds are reintroduced to the home flock.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N8) was recently detected in migrating waterfowl in Butte County, California. Fortunately, this strain does not infect humans. However, commercial and backyard poultry raised near areas commonly used by migrating waterfowl are at risk.

  • USDA and HPAI
Since December 2014, USDA has confirmed several cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 in the Pacific, Central, and Mississippi flyways (migratory bird paths). The disease has been found in wild birds, as well as in a few backyard and commercial poultry flocks. Here is information to help you be better informed and advise bird owners, especially about biosecurity, should the need arise.

People want to know if THEY can get the bird flu they hear about in parts of Asia;
NO, the bird influenza we have here in the United States is not transferable to humans.

So what can you do as a backyard poultry keeper?

First, limit your bird's access to wild birds that migrate. It is believed that HPAI will be present in wild birds in all of the US flyways according to Dr. John Clifford, United States Chef Veterinary Officer (Avian Science Notes, October 2015).
Second, officials recommend that poultry be protected in their confinement areas by roofs made of a solid material. Most people already have chicken coops and pens with cage material to protect their chickens from predators. But by having a solid roof, it limits your flock's exposure to droppings and materials that could expose them to HPAI.
Third, pay attention to your chickens and know what a sick chicken looks like. By watching and engaging your flock on a regular basis, you will be able to quickly notice when one is not feeling well. Quickly isolate a sick bird and use good biosecurity practices. Contact your closest CAHFS (California Animal Health and Food Safety) lab with questions and consider taking your bird there for diagnosis. Their services are often FREE for backyard poultry fanciers!

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