A deadly bird flu is threatening North Carolina’s avian operations. That’s the word Wednesday from area livestock extension agent Glenn Detweiler. He explained that it’s a highly pathogenic avian influenza (or HPAI).
“Please take this notice seriously,” said Detweiler. “On Tuesday, April 5, our state veterinarian (Dr. Michael Martin) shut down all (commercial and public) avian movement. This includes exhibitions, farm tours, shows, sales, flea markets, auctions, swaps and meets for any feathered fowl. Waterfowl can carry the disease without symptoms, while it is deadly for all poultry.
“No human sickness from HPAI cases of these avian influenza viruses has been detected in the United States,” he added, “and it does not present an immediate public health concern. HPAI is also not a food safety issue. But as a reminder, the proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit kills bacteria and viruses.”
Detweiler continued that Lincoln County has many chickens raised in local backyards. And Martin stressed that all bird-owners are encouraged to know the warning signs of avian influenza and implement steps to protect their flock. Warning signs include reduced energy, decreased appetite and/or decreased activity; lower egg production and/or soft-shelled or misshapen eggs; the swelling of the chicken’s head, eyelids, comb and wattles; a purple discoloration of the wattles, comb and legs; difficulty breathing, sneezing and a runny beak; twisting of the head and neck, stumbling, falling down, tremors and/or circling; and greenish diarrhea.
Got dying birds? Report this right away to your local vet; the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Veterinary Division at (919) 707-3250; and the N.C. Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System at (919) 733-3986.
You can protect your backyard birds by keeping all domestic birds away from ponds where they might encounter migrating birds; covering the top of any open or screened runs with metal and/or plastic to prevent wild bird droppings from falling into the bird area, water or feed; removing wild bird feeders or keeping them nowhere near backyard flocks; and wearing plastic disposable shoe/boot coverings when walking among your flock and when visiting any neighbor’s bird area. Dispose of the coverings properly.
“Don’t save them for later use!” Detweiler emphasized.
Confined birds need extra care by adding forms of enrichment to discourage them from pecking each other, such as tree branches, cabbage, melons, pecking blocks, hanging aluminum pie pans and so on; and keeping your birds isolated from other people and animals in an enclosed environment with a covered run of grass. A tractor pen with a covered run is ideal.
Poultry farmers and others should remember that the goal is not allowing free access to the outdoors in unprotected ways, as Detweiler noted.
“HPAI could wipe out your entire flock when infected,” he said.
To learn more about biosecurity, including videos, checklists and a toolkit, see the Website at www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/animal-disease-information/avian/defend-the-flock-program/dtf-resources/dtf-resources.
Or call Detweiler at (704) 736.8461 or send text messages to (405) 219-1902. See the Websites at www.lincoln.ces.ncsu.edu and www.poultry.ces.ncsu.edu.