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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Avian Influenza?
Avian influenza (AI) 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 US 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 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 US 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.

My flock is healthy now. How might I know that they are getting infected?
Any signs of illness in your flock should be reported and investigated. These signs might include loss of appetite, sneezing or difficulty breathing, nasal discharge, diarrhea, stumbling, difficulty standing or even sudden death. If you notice any of these signs or have several birds die, you can get help in determining their problem at one of the NCDA&CS animal disease diagnostic labs or by visiting your local veterinarian. The type of flu circulating in the US now has caused death of multiple birds in a short period of time. For more information on avian influenza, consult the USDA webpage on avian influenza.


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  NCDA&CS produces an e-newsletter for small flock owners. Sign up in the Newsroom.

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.


Foaming in solid wall houses? CO2 as depopulation? Ventilation Shutdown until foamers arrive?
Foaming can be performed in solid-wall poultry houses. Solid wall houses have areas that can be entered with the use of the NC Foam Unit. Following penning of birds, hoses would be lengthened to pull into house from existing door or other opening.

Companies have expressed interest in using CO2 depopulation.  At this time, the IMT Depopulation Task Force will not be engaged in using CO2. However, if logistical support is needed to help provide CO2 depopulation material to an industry site, the IMT will assist the company as needed. NC is fortunate to have 16 NC Foam Units and 10 retrofitted N.C. Forest Service pumpers to support foam operations.  Will rapid deployment and coordinated logistical staging, it is the goal to be able to depop all infected birds in 24 hours.

According to USDA, the American Veterinary Medical Association and other humane groups, Ventilation Shutdown is only to be used as a last resort, once other methods of depopulation have been considered and ruled out. The NCDA&CS will be following these recommendations and will only approve VSD in extreme situations.

Will we use alkaline hydrolysis?
All disposal options will be considered and assessed by the IMT for meeting the objectives to not contribute to lateral spread. The ability to use a certain disposal methods will be contingent on rapidly disposing of birds to reduce virus production. Capacity of any disposal unit is and biosecurity of process are primary considerations. Alkaline hydrolysis may not be suitable for mass disposal.

Who is responsible for acquiring required water for depopulation process?
NCDA&CS Emergency Programs Division is working with local government to provide the water source. 

Can surface water be used for the depopulation process?
No, cleaner water is needed for the ratios to work properly for the foam.


Define Qualified Individual in relation to identifying suitable burial sites.
Qualified individuals include but are not limited to:
Licensed Soil Scientist
Registered Environmental Health Specialists
Licensed Engineers
Licensed Geologist

If “burying” above ground, how quickly do the birds need to be covered?
Within 24 hours and will need to cover as you go.  Need to make sure that the landowner has the soil available to cover as they go, or use carbon sources for composting may be cheaper, easier to handle and more readily available than top soil for above ground burial.)

How do you compost in the building and equipment work in the building?
APHIS is finalizing guidance that will go out soon; you could use a windrowing machine the growers use to clean out. Virginia has a great document that explains the in-house composting process: is a link to that document you likely already have.
Where is the carbon coming from and who will be responsible for acquiring the carbon?
There is work at the state-level to identify carbon sources for use with composting.  Acquiring is likely to be a team effort of NCDA&CS, APHIS and Emergency Management logistics as needed according to the individual flock plan.  Litter that is already in the house is the first carbon source.

Is it permissible to compost outside of the house? I have layer houses and indoors in not possible. 
Yes.  Outside composting is certainly necessary for buildings that are not suitable for in-house, such as layer facilities.  Others will be guided by the Subject Matter Expert and flock plan as to whether outdoors would be needed.  Indoor composting is a more protected way to prevent threats of disease transmission and damage from weather and animals, and is a less “public” means of disposal.

Is waste analysis process changing with the intro of HPAI? 
The Interagency Nutrient Management Committee and the 1217 Interagency Committee will be discuss nutrient values for compost that can be used for planning purposes.  However, actual application rates should be based on analysis of final compost material. 

Are the monitoring well requirements mandatory? 
Right now it’s recommended but DENR will determine.


General questions about the state’s response plan

How much will county CART teams be involved? How much will county EM staff be involved or pulled in to assist or will this be handled by state teams?
NCDA&CS reached out to NCEM in early spring to begin discussions on response activities.  A discussion-based exercise which focused on HPAI was led by NCEM in May. There will be two meetings of EM officials to discuss response details– one in the NCEM Western Branch Office and one meeting in the Eastern Branch Office. 

Will North Carolina be following the procedures described under the various Secure Poultry Supply Plans?
The integration of the Secure Egg plans or aspects of the plan will likely continue to be used in futures response activities for purposes of permitted movement of products.

How will industry representatives be incorporated into Incident or Joint Command? 
Industry will be included in the Incident Command System in the position of Industry Liaison. There are four keys areas (1) Turkeys(2) Broilers (3) Breeders (4) Eggs.  There will be daily industry calls into the Incident Management Team 3-5 days per week depending on the number of outbreaks or other response/recovery related business to discuss. There will be an Industry policy liaison assigned to the IMT as well.

Where are collection locations?
Sample Collection sites will be set up in 8 strategic locations across the state to assist with handling and preparing samples for shipment to the Rollins Laboratory. The site specific information will be posted soon.  Proposed locations will be in the following areas:
Rose Hill

Can the biosecurity, C&D monitor and case manager be the same person? 3 gov’t people per site will be a tremendous drain on resources.
The Biosecurity and Decon officers have completely different functions, the tasks with in their roles will not allow for strict verification of protocols since much of the verification depends on visual observation.  The Case Manager will have duties on 5-7 premises, so cannot take on roles of Biosecurity or Decon officers who must remain on site for response activities at all times.

Monitoring and control of movement of control zones over 24-hour and longer time period – personnel involved?
The question appears to be asking about movement of products 24 hours per day and will those movements be monitored.  Poultry product movement into and out of a control can only be approved through a permitting process overseen by the IMT and approved through the State Veterinarians office. It is conceivable that permitted movement could be monitored in and out of control zones 24/7 depending on the severity of the outbreak and the number of operations within a control zone needing permitted movement.  The goal is to enable commerce to continue following all protocols to maintain biosecurity and no lateral spread of the virus.

What efforts are being made to contact individual growers from both NCDA&S as well as the integrators?
Growers are being reached through a variety of ways: the avian flu website, press releases, the e-newsletter and Agricultural Review.

Integrators will be contacted in the area of an outbreak, and individual contract growers likely contacted by us or their company. Private and backyard flocks will be contacted by us if we have their information on file from the registration or FARMID program. Otherwise it may be difficult to make contact with them in a timely manner. 

Do we know how swine movement feed truck access to operations within either the inner 'infection zones' or outer 'quarantine zones' is going to be affected?
All movement in 10 km zone will be permitted by USDA-APHIS.

Is there a specific contact list or hotline number for growers to get consistent answers to questions? 
Not yet. The NCDA&CS avian influenza website has a wealth of information. A hotline will be started when the virus is found in North Carolina or neighboring states.

Will the NCDA Avian Flu site update to show WHERE infected zones and quarantine zones are? 
Due to confidentiality restrictions, exact locations will not be reported. Reporting will be done at the county level. However farms within the zones will be notified as well as county emergency management officials.


Office of the State Veterinarian
N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Mailing Address:1030 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1030
Physical Address: 2 W. Edenton Street, Raleigh, NC 27601
Phone: 919-707-3250; FAX: 919-733-2277

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