State Veterinarian Mike Martin announced Tuesday (April 5th) that all North Carolina poultry shows and public sales will be suspended due to the threat of highly pathogenic avian influenza. This includes all exhibitions, farm tours, shows, sales, flea markets, auction markets, swaps and meets pertaining to poultry and feathered fowl in North Carolina. These activities are suspended until further notice.
“This suspension is due to the continued spread of HPAI that has affected commercial and backyard flocks in numerous states, including North Carolina,” said Martin. “We do not make this decision lightly. HPAI is a serious threat to our poultry industry and this is a precaution to help limit the introduction of the virus to backyard and commercial flocks.”
North Carolina joins several other states, including Georgia, that have also canceled or altered poultry events due to HPAI. Poultry owners across the state need to practice strict biosecurity. This includes keeping flocks indoors without access to outside and reporting sick birds to your local veterinarian, the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Veterinary Division, 919-707-3250, or the NC Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System 919-733-3986.
The warning signs of HPAI include:
- 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
Since March 29, HPAI has been detected at seven commercial poultry facilities in Johnston and Wayne counties. More than 90,000 turkeys and more than 280,000 broilers have been depopulated and composted on-site to prevent further spread of the virus. Additional updates to the current HPAI outbreak will be posted to www.ncagr.gov/avianflu/newsroom.htm.
This type of HPAI virus is considered a low risk to people according to the US Centers for Disease Control. There are no cases to date of this strain of HPAI infecting a person. The virus is also not considered a food safety threat and infected birds do not enter the food supply. All properly cooked poultry products are safe to consume.
So are eggs being sold commercially, but with Easter just over a week away, the supply of eggs is less than in previous years and that means higher prices. Supply chain problems are partially to blame, but so is the outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). Consumers may be looking at a shortage of eggs this Easter and much higher prices, since egg production has not fully recovered from disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and while the supply has stabilized, it is still well below pre-pandemic numbers. More than 11 million layer hens have been lost to HPAI since the outbreak began in February. The USDA says total poultry losses nationwide now top 22.6 million birds.
Much to the surprise of many Lincoln County residents, Lincoln County produces 7,200,000 broilers/year and 4,000 layers/year, not counting those in backyards and on smaller farms. Professional producers are cautious to isolate their birds, in order to protect against outbreaks just like the current one affecting other areas.
“Backyard” chicken producers should practice proper biosecurity protocols to keep domestic flocks away from areas frequented by migratory birds, all waterfowl, and other wild birds. Poultry owners should keep their flock away from ponds where they might encounter migrating birds. Other things to consider at this time include: 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. Remove wild bird feeders or distance them from any backyard flocks as much as possible. Also, if your birds are more confined than usual, consider adding things to discourage birds from pecking one another such as tree branches, cabbage, pecking blocks, hanging aluminum pie pans, etc. Keeping your birds isolated from other people and animals in an enclosed environment is ideal. The main point is - do not allow free access to the outdoors in a way that is unprotected.
HPAI could wipe out the entire flock when infected.
More information about High Path Avian Influenza is available online at www.ncagr.gov/avianflu.