Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)
HPIA was recently detected in chickens in Utah. Although it is not a danger to humans, it is very contagious and lethal in chickens. Infected wild waterfowl primarily spread the virus as they migrate and encounter open water sources and domestic waterfowl and poultry. Close contact with infected flock mates and contaminated water sources is the most likely infection source for backyard poultry. Avian influenza poses a significant danger to both backyard poultry and commercial operations in Utah.
Dr. Frame, the USU Extension poultry specialist, “at this stage of the national outbreak of HPAI, it would be wise that folks owning home flock poultry do not simultaneously have active wild bird feeders. This virus is very contagious, and any bird species that may tend to frequent marshy areas and/or comingle with waterfowl could be a mechanical vector of the virus. If people decide to feed wild birds, the feeder should be located as far away from their chickens as possible. They should wash their hands and change footwear after servicing the feeders before taking care of their chickens. I recommend that chickens be kept in covered runs where the owner has more control of wild bird exposure.”
In addition to removing wild bird feeders, Dr. Frame has eight recommendations for folks to reduce the risk of HPAI for their backyard flocks:
1. Change footwear and wash hands before and after contact with your home flock. Hands and feet are the major touchpoints of tracking the virus into flocks.
2. Identify “protectable” barriers, such as the entrance to the bird area, coop, and pen. Limit human and pet access to these places.
3. Do not allow your chickens to drink pond water or other open water sources such as canals or ditches, and do not use this water for cleaning.
4. Only purchase poultry from National Poultry Improvement Plan-certified hatcheries and dealers. Do not buy poultry at swap meets or live bird markets.
5. Quarantine new acquisitions and birds returning from shows for three weeks to ensure they are not intermixed with other chickens.
6. If you hunt waterfowl, you must shower and change into clean clothes before attending to your home flock.
7. Contact your veterinarian if you observe any unusual signs in your flock. These include enlarged bluish combs, swollen heads, apparent bruising on the shanks, and nervous symptoms such as stargazing or sudden death.
8. Never raise domestic waterfowl and chickens together. Also, do not raise mixed species such as chickens, turkeys, and Guinea fowl together.