Where Did the Bird Flu Outbreak Come From?
In January 2022, the USDA announced that they had found cases of bird flu (H5N1 influenza virus) infections in wild birds. A month later, in February, multiple states found cases in commercial and backyard poultry flocks.
From “The Wild” to “The Farm”
Wild birds rarely experience symptoms or die while carrying avian flu because their more robust immune systems are naturally exposed to more biodiversity than domestic birds. However, avian flu easily spreads when they come in close contact with domestic birds that have more restricted living quarters. Wild and migrating birds are opportunists that sometimes take advantage of domestic food, and water sources. They also sometimes enjoy resting and interacting with domestic flocks along their travels.
How does Bird Flu Spread?
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) avian flu spreads by:
- Direct contact with infected animals
- Contaminated surfaces (any materials in close contact with infected animals or their waste)
- In the air: droplets or dust from behaviors like flapping wings, shaking heads, and scratching
Has H5N1 Bird Flu Transmitted to Humans?
The risk of human transmission is extremely low. The CDC says that there have been no human transmission cases for the high pathogenic strain of the avian flu (HPAI), and there have only ever been 4 cases of human transmission for the low pathogenic strain (LPAI). These cases occurred because of long term, repeated, and unprotected exposure to infected animals and were transmitted like other respiratory viruses (eyes, nose, mouth, and lungs).
Does the Avian Flu spread by eating meat or eggs?
Thankfully, no. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has assured producers and consumers that properly cooked poultry meat and eggs will not spread avian influenza.
- Click here to learn more from the USDA about avian flu and food safety.
How Can I Protect My Backyard Flock from the Avian Flu?
Here are some tips on how to improve biosecurity for your poultry:
Keep wild birds away from your flock
- Prevent wild and migrating fowl from using your flock’s food and water sources (especially water birds)
- Install netting or relocate birds to a more secure location where you have crowd control over wild “visitors”
Don’t Share Equipment
- It may be neighborly to lend and share under normal circumstances, but not during a bird flu outbreak
- Avoid sharing with or accepting building materials, tools (rakes, shovels, etc.) from others
Quarantine New & Returning Birds
- If you are adding to your flock, the USDA recommends keeping new birds separated from the rest of your flock for 30 days.
- Some states cancel shows and fairs during outbreaks like this, but just in case, quarantine any birds returning from shows for 30 days.
Sanitize Your Equipment
- Sanitize clothes, boots, tools, and equipment before and after coming in close contact with your flock.
- Don’t introduce your flock to materials/tools used in the exposed “wild” areas of your property without disinfecting them first.
What Are the Symptoms of Bird Flu?
According to the USDA, here are some avian flu symptoms to watch out for:
- Sudden death without any prior symptoms of illness
- Lack of energy and appetite
- A drop in egg production or soft-shelled, misshapen eggs
- Swelling of the eyelids, comb, wattles, and shanks
- Purple discoloration of the wattles, comb, and legs
- Gasping for air (difficulty breathing)
- Nasal discharge, coughing, sneezing
- Twisting of the head and neck (torticollis)
- Stumbling or falling down
Unfortunately there is no current treatment to cure your birds of avian flu. To protect other flocks around you, contact your local vet or ag extension if you see these symptoms in your birds. You can also call the USDA at 1-866-536-7593.
Support Flock Immune Health with Redmond
Providing your birds with an expansive mineral profile can improve immune health for your whole flock. Since 1958, Redmond Minerals has supported healthy farming operations of all sizes, with our rich mineral and volcanic deposit in central Utah. Our sea minerals and volcanic conditioner supplements are an easy way to ensure your animals are getting access to trace minerals (like copper, manganese, and more) that support health immune function.
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