The expected return of HPAI H5 viruses this fall is expected to pose its biggest threat to commercial poultry operators, but small backyard flock owners, bird enthusiasts, and hunters need to be aware of the threat as well. Last spring’s initial flurry of avian flu activity across the country ended up affecting 211 commercial farms and 21 backyard poultry operations.
Although the summer has been quiet on the bird flu front, the recently released APHIS: Fall 2015 HPAI Preparedness & Response Plan warns:
The decline in HPAI detections provided an opportunity to enhance prevention efforts and prepare for additional backyard and commercial poultry cases that may occur in the fall when birds migrate south from their northern breeding grounds. While HPAI infections since December 2014 have been identified in three of the four U.S. flyways, we expect HPAI viruses will be brought to the Atlantic flyway by migrating ducks, if they are not already present but as yet undetected in the resident wild duck population.
In anticipation of backyard flock involvement, the USDA recently released a revised guidance document called Surveillance of Backyard Flocks Around Infected Premises September 14, 2015, which calls for an Infected Zone and Buffer Zone to be established around any presumed or laboratory confirmed infection.
The key here is prevention, and over the past few months we’ve looked at a number of biosecurity options for backyard and small poultry operations (see USDA Avian Flu Biosecurity Videos, APHIS: HPAI Biosecurity Self-Assessment Checklist, and HPAI: Battening Down The Biosecurity Hatches).
Even if you only raise a handful of backyard birds, it would be prudent to avail yourself of this information. The CDC also offers some specific guidance for people who raise backyard poultry, along with guidance for working with infected birds.
- Healthy Pets Healthy People: Backyard Poultry
- Biosecurity for Poultry
- Protect Your Birds from Avian Influenza[2.7 MB, 2 pages]
Although we know of no one who has been infected with these North American HPAI H5 viruses, the CDC is taking a cautious stance, knowing that viruses can change over time. In June, the CDC issued a HAN:HPAI H5 Exposure, Human Health Investigations & Response, but for now the risk is considered low.
- Recommendations for Worker Protection and Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to Reduce Exposure to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A H5 Viruses
- Ensuring the Protection of Employees Involved in Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Control and Eradication Activities[31 KB, 8 pages], APHIS
- Avian Influenza–Protecting Poultry Workers at Risk, OSHA
Even if you don’t raise poultry, you may have a bird feeder, be a bird watcher, have pet birds, or hunt. This fall and winter the USDA is hoping – along with being careful around birds - you’ll keep your eye out for signs of HPAI, and report any unexplained die-offs or sick birds:
Biosecurity and Wild Birds
Last Modified: Aug 4, 2015
- Know the Signs of Disease and How to Report Suspected Illness
- Campaign Resources and Materials
- Biosecurity for Pet Birds
- Biosecurity Explained – 6 Simple Steps
- Biosecurity for Birds
Since December 2014, APHIS has confirmed more than 200 cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 in U.S commercial and backyard poultry flocks, as well as in wild birds. Wild migratory birds, particularly waterfowl, can carry this disease.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services needs hunters and bird watchers to keep an eye out for signs HPAI. These include the unexplained die-offs of birds or birds showing signs of being sick.
Do not pick up deceased or obviously sick birds. Contact your State, tribal, or Federal natural resources agency if you find sick or dead birds.
- Wear rubber gloves when cleaning your bird feeders.
- Wash hands with soap and water immediately after cleaning feeders.
- Do not eat, drink, or smoke while cleaning bird feeders.
Follow routine precautions when handling wild birds.
- Do not handle or consume game animals that are obviously sick or found dead.
- Do not eat, drink, or smoke while cleaning game.
- Wear rubber gloves when cleaning game.
- Wash hands with soap and water, or alcohol wipes, immediately after handling game.
- Wash tools and working surfaces with soap and water and then disinfect.
- Keep uncooked game in a separate container, away from cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
- Cook game meat thoroughly; poultry should reach an internal temperature of 165 degree Fahrenheit to kill disease organisms and parasites.
- To report unusual signs in birds you have seen in the wild, call 1-866-4-USDA-WS. To learn more about how you can help, visit usda.gov/birdflu.
And to close out, a couple more links: