Outbreak of High Path Avian Influenza raises concerns among veterinarians who recommend strict biosecurity measures

Veterinarians are keeping a close eye on a virus that could be serious, even deadly, for some animals.
Published: Mar. 22, 2022 at 6:39 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Veterinarians are keeping a close eye on a virus that could be serious, even deadly, for some animals.

Birds in the United States tested positive for High Path Avian Influenza (HPAI) in November, and the first case in North Carolina was confirmed mid-January.

This virus is especially an issue for chickens. Right now it is spreading quickly from wild birds, but veterinarians are hoping to keep the virus away from domestic birds.

With the popularity of backyard chicken coops going up, it’s safe to assume that just about any wild bird your chickens come in contact with could be carrying the virus.

State Veterinarian Dr. Michael Martin said, if possible, keep your birds indoors or in a secured coop that is away from wild birds. Dr. Martin said there are things you can do as well to prevent the spread of the virus.

“We try to think of them as kind of a wet paint method where anytime you could accidentally come in contact with wild bird droppings and things like that, you potentially, like wet paint, are spreading that virus to wherever you go until you clean up,” Martin said. “Clean up would be changing your shoes, washing your hands, taking a shower, [changing into] clean clothes.”

Signs to look for in birds that might have HPAI:

  • 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
  • Greenish diarrhea

Dr. Martin said it’s important to get in touch with your veterinarian right away if any of your birds are experiencing any of these symptoms.

“We have now 27 commercial farms in eight different states across the country that have tested positive for this virus and we’ve also had 23 backyard independent flocks across 10 states in the country test positive for this disease, and this is over 13 million birds that are affected right now from this outbreak in the United States,” Martin said. “We had well over 140 positive samples in wild birds in North Carolina.”

Martin added that there is no risk for humans right now as this is only a bird/avian virus.

“This virus does not seem to be affecting people at all, so we are really considering this as a bird virus, an avian virus. So, there isn’t a public safety risk at this time, there’s no issue with food safety at this point in time,” Martin said. “This is really something of a bird safety issue and so we’re just trying to keep all of our birds safe as best we can using those safety measures.”

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