DEEP: Avian Influenza

Avian Influenza Update
 
 
Since mid-December 2014, there have been several ongoing highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 incidents along the Pacific, Central, and Mississippi Flyways. Cases in wild birds, captive wild birds, backyard poultry, or commercial poultry have been reported in Arkansas, California, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. These states cover three of the four North American flyways and many more detections are expected.
 
There are three important things you need to know about this situation:
 
1. Our food supply is safe. Food is safe because the United States has the strongest avian influenza surveillance system in the world. We actively look for the disease and educate the public and producers on the most appropriate practices to ensure health and safety, as well as provide compensation to affected producers to encourage disease reporting.
 
2. The risk to humans is low. No human infections with these viruses have been detected, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections in wild birds, backyard flocks, and commercial poultry to be low.
 
3. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its partners, including DEEP and the CT Department of Agriculture, will continue to do everything they can to support states and producers. USDA is coordinating closely with state officials and other federal departments on rigorous surveillance, reporting, and control efforts.
 
To help you navigate important information related to these events, USDA has announced a new Avian Influenza webpage with aggregated resources to keep you up-to-date and provide guidance for backyard poultry owners.
 
 
Current scientific evidence indicates that outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza HPAI usually involve the death of a large number of waterfowl or shorebirds – as opposed to individual birds people may find on their property. As a result, when it comes to surveillance of dead wild birds as an early detection measure, DEEP will primarily focus on events that involve large numbers of birds. At this time, we will not routinely be testing individual birds that are found dead – especially if they are backyard birds – robins, sparrows, pigeons, cardinals etc. – which are not considered to be highly susceptible to Bird Flu. We are, however, interested in all mortality events and will follow up on those that we feel are indicative of a potential HPAI or other wildlife disease outbreak.
 
Please help us monitor wild bird populations in Connecticut by reporting sightings of dead wild birds to the Wild Bird Mortality Database
  • If you see several dead birds (>5) in one location or notice that several birds die in the same area over the course of several days, this is a situation where testing of the dead birds may be warranted. If you observe this type of die-off, in addition to filling out this form, please call the DEEP Wildlife Division at 860-424-3011.
  • Individual wild backyard birds that are found dead can be reported here and should be disposed of properly (bury or double bag and place in your garbage receptacle).
  • Sick or dead domestic birds – mainly poultry - should be reported to the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, State Veterinarian at 860-713-2505.
 
At this time, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is focusing its avian influenza surveillance on waterfowl, in particular puddle ducks and Canada geese. Current knowledge of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) strain that is affecting North America, H5N2, indicates that waterfowl are likely carriers of the virus. The virus is carried by the birds and shed through feces and other bodily fluids. Puddle ducks seem to not be outwardly affected by the virus, whereas Canada geese, similar to domestic poultry, seem to die very quickly when afflicted.
 
Q) What should I do if I find dead wild birds on my property?
 
A) DEEP is currently following its normal protocol for dead wild bird testing. That is, birds will be tested if several birds die at the same location at one time or over several days. You can submit information regarding dead wild birds to the state’s Wild Bird Mortality Reporting Website. This site is constantly monitored and, if wild birds that you report warrant testing, you will be contacted.
 
Q) What is the recommended method for disposing of a dead wild bird that will not be submitted for testing?
 
A) Avoid direct contact with the bird. Wear gloves or use a shovel to place the bird in a plastic bag. If you do not have gloves, put your hand inside a plastic bag, grab the bird through the bag and pull the bag back over your hand. Tie the bag off, place into another plastic bag and tie that bag off as well. Dead birds can be disposed of by burying or discarding in the trash. Always wash hands thoroughly after disposal.
 
Q) Why isn’t the state interested in testing one or a few dead wild birds?
 
A) We are interested in certain instances. For example, Canada geese seem to be very susceptible to this current H5N2 strain. Geese, however, succumb to a number of different causes on a regular basis. We will evaluate each incident that is reported to us and test those birds that seem most likely to have died due to disease rather than another cause. Our current knowledge of the effect of the disease on wild birds other than geese indicates that outbreaks detected in wild water bird populations will likely involve the death of a large number of these species. Surveillance of dead wild birds as an early detection measure is best accomplished by focusing on significant mortality events in wild birds as opposed to individual birds people may come upon or find on their property.
 
 
Don’t wait to report! If you see symptoms (PDF, 2.7 mb) in birds or poultry, call USDA toll-free at 1-866-536-7593 or contact your state veterinarian.

An interagency “ask the expert” Twitter chat was recently held focusing on good biosecurity practices for backyard poultry flocks and commercial poultry producers. The USDA has posted the full Q&A on Storify. Hopefully, some of your questions will be answered.
 
Tweets from @USDA_APHIS (USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service)
  • Federal, state, & local are coordinating closely on surveillance, reporting & control. More about what's going on.
  • Stay up-to-date with this chart of current highly pathogenic avian influenza findings.
  • Look, protect, report. Learn how to protect your birds from diseases like avian influenza.
  • No risk to food supply with current avian influenza findings. For proper food safety, always cook poultry to 165F.
  • Current risk to humans from avian influenza is low, says @CDCgov. Learn the facts
  • Have questions about #birdflu? Our experts took to Twitter to ensure poultry owners have the right info. The full Q&A
  • #Birdflu is a reminder to protect your birds with good biosecurity. Simple tips to keep your flock safe.
  • A healthy flock begins with you! Take simple steps to keep you healthy & safe from avian influenza.
     
Content last updated on October 8, 2015.