Avian Influenza is a disease carried by migratory birds such as geese and ducks. Poultry are very susceptible to this disease and will die or become very sick upon contact with the virus.
How to Detect Avian Influenza
Unexplained sudden death
swelling of head
purple discoloration of comb and wattles
Sudden drop of feed and water consumption
Lethargy and depression
How the Disease is Transmitted
Contact with fecal material from wild birds
Contact with infected birds
Contact with contaminated equipment
Contact with contaminated boots and clothing
How to Protect your Flock
Wear dedicated footwear and clothing to work with your birds
Wash your hands before and after working with birds
Keep poultry inside their coop to avoid contact with wild birds
Clean and disinfect equipment in contact with birds
Remove birdhouses and feeders used by wild birds
Limit visitors to your premises.
So What is Avian Influenza?
Avian influenza (AI) or "bird flu" is an infectious disease of wild birds (such as ducks, gulls, and other shorebirds) and less often of domestic poultry (such as chickens, turkeys, guinea fowl). There is a flu for birds just as there is for humans and, as with people, some forms of the flu are worse than others. What causes AI? The disease is caused by type A influenza virus (AIV) which is highly infectious bird to bird, and has many different subtypes. There are two major types based on the severity of disease that the specific virus can cause in poultry: • Low pathogenic (LP) types cause mild disease and no or low mortality • High pathogenic (HP) types cause severe disease and very high mortality . Almost all are LP types, but occasionally HP types emerge. There are over one hundred possible subtypes based on combinations of two surface structures abbreviated with the letters "H" and "N", given the 16 different H types and 9 different N types possible in birds. There are even more classifications based on genetic analyses. These viruses can reassert and mutate into different virus subtypes in unpredictable ways when they circulate over time in different bird populations. For example, a few H5 and H7 LP viruses have the potential to become HP in the right set of circumstances.
Where is the Virus Found?
There are 2 main reservoirs of these viruses
The natural reservoir is wild waterfowl and shorebirds that migrate and co-mingle freely. It is expected that these birds often harbor and shed viruses into their aquatic (lakes, ponds, marshes, rivers) and adjacent land habitats as part of their natural cycle. The viruses do not typically cause significant disease in the waterfowl, so it is usually not possible to tell if they are infected. The man-made reservoir is the urban live bird marketing system, that includes suppliers of live poultry and the city retail markets themselves. The markets keep an inventory of live chickens, ducks, guinea fowl and other birds for purchase by certain ethnic and cultural groups for food. The birds are
typically custom- slaughtered at the market for the customer. In our region, there are many of these markets in New York City and northern New Jersey, and a few in Philadelphia. In the case of an Avian Influenza outbreak in poultry, an additional reservoir of virus is the infected flock or flocks, and the immediate area of the infected farm premises. This reservoir should be short-lived, for as long as it takes to control the outbreak. Blocking or limiting exposure of poultry to these reservoirs are
the keys to preventing AI infections in poultry flocks.
How Does the Virus Shed?
The virus is shed from infected birds through feces and through secretions from the nose, mouth, and eyes. Avian influenza virus can be spread by direct contact between infected birds and non-infected birds, from water sources (streams, ponds, and lakes) contaminated with virus-laden feces, and through indirect contact via contaminated
shoes, clothing, equipment, and other materials. Wild waterfowl and shorebirds can introduce the virus into domestic flocks raised on range or in open flight pens through fecal contamination. Transfer of virus between birds housed together also can occur
via airborne secretions. The spread of avian influenza between poultry premises most often follows the movement of contaminated people and equipment. However, it is possible for Avian Influenza viruses to be carried on dust particles suspended in the air, thereby moving for short distances in the wind.
If you suspect your birds have been exposed or are sick please call the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. If you have unexplained illness or death you must also report to the PA Department of agriculture.
PA Dept. of Agriculture : 717-772-2852
USDA- APHIS-Veterinary Services: 866-536-7593