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Veterinary Division

March 16, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions about Avian Influenza

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.

NCDA&CS Veterinary Division, Dr. Michael Martin - State Veterinarian
Mailing Address: 1030 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1030
Physical Address: 2 West Edenton Street, Raleigh, NC 27601
Phone: (919) 707-3250 Fax: (919) 733-2277

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