Identify the signs of highly contagious avian influenza in your small or backyard flock

Learn the symptoms of HPAI and strategies to keep your birds healthy.

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Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) was identified in Michigan on February 24, 2022 through combined efforts of Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL).It is important to understand that according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these HPAI detections do not present an immediate public health or food safety concern.

Avian influenza is a virus that is naturally found in wild migratory waterfowl such as geese and ducks. Migratory birds contract the virus and spread it along their return migration route in the spring. The virus can then be transferred to domestic poultry such as chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail and waterfowl. Avian influenza viruses are classified into low and high pathogenicity forms based on how sick the infected poultry get. The low pathogenicity AI (LPAI) causes mild clinical signs or sickness, and the high pathogenicity AI (HPAI) causes severe clinical signs and increased death rates in affected birds.

Since HPAI has been identified in Michigan, poultry flock owners and caretakers are strongly encouraged to be vigilant, watch for signs of sickness in their birds and incorporate practices to reduce the risk of the spread of disease. HPAI is a highly contagious disease that is devastating to poultry flocks. According to the Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, “HPAI causes many birds to die at the same time and those remaining in the flock will appear sick. An individual bird coughing or sneezing is not a cause for worry.” Other symptoms that may appear prior to sudden death loss include:

  • Drop in egg production
  • Significant decrease in water consumption
  • Unusually quiet birds
  • An increase in sick birds who are inactive, act sleepy and quit eating

To control the spread and move toward eradication of this highly contagious disease, infected flocks need to be handled in the appropriate manner. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is monitoring the situation closely and providing guidance for all poultry owners. It is important for all poultry owners and caretakers to be aware of avian influenza symptoms and that they understand how to report a sudden death loss in a flock. If avian influenza is suspected, contact MDARD IMMEDIATELY at 800-292-3939 (daytime) or 517-373-0440 (after-hours).

No human cases of these avian influenza viruses have been detected in the United States. The management and elimination of this disease includes practices that ensure no poultry products (meat or eggs) from HPAI positive flocks enter the food chain. As a reminder, it is essential that people follow proper food safety practices when handling and cooking all poultry and eggs products.

Learn more about how to protect your flock from disease in the article Protect your small or backyard flock from diseases such as highly contagious avian influenza.

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