Avian influenza is a disease caused by a virus that infects wild birds such as geese, ducks, swans and shorebirds, and domestic poultry, including turkeys, chickens, ducks, and geese.

Avian influenza is a highly contagious virus that has been documented in domestic poultry and wild waterfowl at low levels in the United States for decades. However, highly pathogenic strains of the virus cause severe illness and catastrophic death loss in poultry.

The USDA keeps track of outbreaks throughout the United States. Regular updates are posted on the avian influenza reporting section of their website. On February 24, 2022, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed the discovery of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in a non-commercial backyard flock in Kalamazoo County, Mich. Since then, MDARD has also detected multiple additional isolated cases of HPAI.

In late March 2022, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) also announced detection of the disease in wild birds in Michigan. 

HPAI does not present an immediate public health concern and properly handled and cooked poultry products remain safe to consume.

Protecting your flock and domestic birds

Commercial poultry production in the U.S. and Michigan includes strict biosecurity measures at the farm level to ensure the health and welfare of poultry as well as provide safe and wholesome food products. The practice of raising chickens and turkeys indoors provides a healthy, safe and controlled environment that minimizes the chances of spreading a variety of bird diseases including avian influenza. 

Poultry raised out-of-doors, often in small backyard flocks, have a much greater risk of being exposed to diseases like avian influenza which can be carried by wild birds. When wild birds and domestic poultry share water, feeding and living areas, the possibility for disease transmission from one to the other significantly increases. Utilizing biosecurity measures can help keep birds healthy.

Signs of sickness

Poultry owners and caretakers are highly encouraged to watch for signs of avian influenza in their flock. This includes unusual deaths, a drop in egg production, a significant decrease in water consumption, or an increase in sick birds. If avian influenza is suspected, contact MDARD.

Who to contact

Domestic flocks: If avian influenza is suspected, contact MDARD IMMEDIATELY at 800-292-3939 (daytime) or 517-373-0440 (after hours). MDARD cooperates with MSU’s Veterinary Diagnostic Lab (VDL) for diagnostic services. 

Wild birds: Residents who notice the death loss of three or more free-ranging birds should report it to the DNR through the Eyes in the Field app or by calling 517-336-5030. 

Resources

To stay up-to-date with MDARD updates and alerts regarding the status of avian influenza in Michigan, poultry owners can subscribe to receive notifications from MDARD. Visit MDARD’s website and click on the “Avian Influenza” link to enter a valid email address to receive notifications whenever there are new developments to report.

Egg Industry Center

USDA’s Defend the Flock Program

MDARD Avian Influenza site

MSU VDL Avian Influenza Resources

Michigan Surveillance and Response Plan for Avian influenza in free-ranging wildlife