Many of you have heard on the news or read in an article of the deadly HPAIV H5N1 outbreak across the country. This virus has already devastated many local farmers and poultry farms with death tolls over 24 million in the US alone. Once the virus is detected in a flock, the entire flock on the property must be culled to prevent the spread. HPAIV has been detected in over 30 wild species from waterfowl to crows to bald eagles. Though this strain has a very high mortality rate in domesticated flocks, the wild flocks remain asymptomatic for a longer period of time, which is resulting in a wider spread of the virus. With it being migratory season, the spread of HPAIV is out of control.
But just how is this avian flu transmitted?
HPAIV H5N1 can be spread when contact is made with the bodily fluids of an affected birds (or humans) such as feces, blood, or oral (droplet) secretions. Though there are no zoonotic cases reported in this 2022 strain, the 2015 H5N1 strain was reported in humans overseas. According to heathline.com, the avian flu can survive on surfaces for up to 48 hours. HPAIV can be transported by contact with clothes, shoes, and/or equipment.
How to keep your birds safe.
To prevent transmission, proper and frequent sanitation of surfaces is recommended. Leaving shoes outside and frequent handwashing before coming in contact with your birds is also advised. If you have an outdoor flock such as chickens or ducks, it is advised to bring them into an indoor enclosure to avoid contamination with the wild migratory birds and their droppings. If you have outdoor flocks, wash your hands and change your clothes before coming into contact with you pet birds. When bringing your furry pets, such as dogs and cats, in from the outdoors, wipe down their paws and their coats before coming inside. Avoid feeding wild birds at this time to lessen the wild avian traffic throughout your property. Do not bring your pet birds out of the house unless it is for mandatory vetting. Avoid any and all physical contact with wild bird, dead or alive. If you add any birds to your flock, follow the 30-90 day quarantine process to protect both current flock and new intake. Report any deceased or sick birds to the Department of Natural Resources or your local health department.
What signs and symptoms should we look for?
In birds, you should be watchful for the following symptoms: sudden death; lack of energy, appetite or coordination; purple discoloration and/or swelling of various body parts; diarrhea; nasal discharge; coughing; and sneezing.
In humans, you should be watchful for the following symptoms: fever; cough; diarrhea; respiratory difficulties; headache; muscle aches; malaise; and runny nose.
If you notice any of these signs or symptoms for either your bird or self, please contact your MD and/or veterinarian for testing and treatment.