|What is avian influenza?||Consumers & Food Safety||Biosecurity||FAQs||Small & Backyard Flocks||Wild birds and hunting||Bird shows/sales|
Frequently Asked Questions
What is avian influenza?
Avian influenza is caused by an influenza type A virus which can infect poultry (such as chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, domestic ducks, geese and guinea fowl) and is carried by free flying waterfowl such as ducks, geese and shorebirds. There is currently an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza circulating in the United States that is very dangerous for your flock. This infection has been shown to be carried by wild migratory waterfowl.
My ducks and chickens, turkeys and guineas live together and all seem healthy. Do I need to separate them?
It is a good idea to keep all waterfowl separate from your chickens, guineas and turkeys. Waterfowl are known carriers of the influenza virus and may appear perfectly healthy, while being able to infect your flock.
I’ve heard that I might catch avian influenza from my flock. Is this something I should be concerned about?
The types of avian influenza known to be in the U.S. now have not affected humans. Most human cases of avian influenza have been in the Far East and Middle East. If you are travelling to those areas of the world, you should avoid poultry markets and close contact with live birds or their droppings.
How can I protect my flock from the serious avian influenza that is affecting flocks in the US right now?
Since the avian influenza that is present in the U.S. now is carried by wild waterfowl, you can protect your flock by separating waterfowl and their droppings from gallinaceous birds like chickens, turkeys and guineas. Provide shelter for your flock from areas where waterfowl gather, such as ponds or streams. Follow good biosecurity practices with your flock such as using dedicated shoes and clothing to care for them, and avoid contact with other flocks or with waterfowl in public areas.
My flock lives outside except when they enter their coop for the night. Should I keep them inside all the time?
Moving flocks inside will provide further protection because they have less chance of coming in contact with wild waterfowl. If you cannot keep them in housing, be sure to avoid anything that might attract other birds, such as feeding them in the open.
How could wild waterfowl give the disease to my flock?
Wild waterfowl typically shed the virus through their droppings. The virus lives well in cool, moist places, so access to ponds and streams can be dangerous for your flock. It is best to keep your flock confined so that they cannot access areas where waterfowl gather.
Questions from meetings
Backyard / Small flocks
What are depopulation options for backyards? Will we have to compost? What are other disposal options?
HPAI may be discovered in small flocks due to high mortality. Depopulation of remaining birds can be accomplished using a small foam production machine connected to a garden hose. When available, CO2 gas is another option for humane euthanasia. Disposal will depend upon how many birds you have and where you live. City ordinances my prevent burial of more than a few birds in urban settings. But in most cases, burial will be an option for small/backyard flocks.
How will educate and manage outreach for backyard flock owners? How will we C&D backyard operations?
We are asking small flock growers to register with the State Veterinarian's Office so that we can send educational materials directly to them. We are also posting information to the department's avian influenza website and using the Agricultural Review to reach others who may not have internet access. We will assist and consult small flock owners with depopulation, disposal and decontamination when requested.
What happens if the backyard people don't voluntarily surrender their birds?
If a flock has a bird that has tested positive for avian influenza, the entire flock will likely die in a short time period due to the highly virulent nature of the virus. If the area isn't decontaminated properly, new birds that are introduced to the area may also be exposed to the virus and also become sick and die. Also, birds that die are not eligible for indemnity payments, whereas birds that are depopulated are eligible for indemnity from USDA. We are hopeful that given the severe nature of HPAI, small flock owners will understand the necessity of stamping out any infections that are found.
What, if any, controls or restrictions have been placed on backyard chicken operations, especially the movements between homes of birds?
No controls have been applied to backyard operations other than the suspension of public sales and shows which applies to all poultry. Individual sales (person to person) of poultry are allowed to take place. Flock owners are also free to order poultry from out of state hatcheries as long as import rules are followed. Flock owners who sell hatching eggs or chicks may sell them and ship by mail.
Any materials to help backyard flock owners recognize symptoms of HPAI?
Should we be encouraging backyard farmers to take better measures for prevention (ex. Confinement, PPE, disinfecting)?
Yes, NCDA&CS has developed a comprehensive website for HPAI to include a section for small flock owners with information on warning signs of infectious diseases. Veterinarians from NCSU and NCDA&CS are presenting the latest information at workshops designed for small flock owners. You can register to attend a meeting at http://www.ncmhtd.com/HpaiSeptBackyardFlockMeetings/. NCDA&CS produces an e-newsletter for small flock owners. Sign up here
If a neighbor is affected will his birds be euthanized or just quarantined?
Only birds from infected flocks will be put down. However, other premises in close proximity to an infected site will be subject to surveillance and possible quarantine. All movement of poultry and poultry products into and out of a quarantine zone will be permitted.
Informational web sites from other states
- Georgia Department of Agriculture
- Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries
- Tennessee Department of Agriculture
- Kentucky Department of Agriculture