Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Situational Report, March 31, 2022
MAINE ANIMAL HEALTH OFFICIALS RESPOND TO AVIAN INFLUENZA
- Since DACF’s March 17 update, USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in samples taken from small flocks of non-commercial backyard birds (non-poultry); Lincoln County (March 17); Knox and York Counties (March 19); Cumberland County (March 22); and Washington County (March 26).
- DACF Animal Health placed the properties under quarantine, and humane depopulation efforts have been completed.
- Additional safety measures were implemented, including monitoring properties with domestic flocks within a 10 km radius and notifying bird owners of the importance of proactive safety measures to help prevent disease.
- The risk for HPAI remains high, and backyard flock and commercial operators are advised to keep birds indoors to prevent the spread of this disease.
- All confirmed HPAI cases will be listed on the regularly updated USDA APHIS website.
HPAI Common Questions
Q: How is HPAI spread?
A: The current outbreak of HPAI is spreading across the country primarily due to the migration of wild birds. There is little evidence to suggest HPAI is being spread from farm to farm (lateral transmission). The virus is very prevalent in the environment in wild birds so flock owners need to practice strong biosecurity. More information on steps they can take to enhance biosecurity is available here: healthybirds.aphis.usda.gov.
Q: How long do we have to keep our birds inside?
A: As long as the disease transmission risk is high. Please reference the Maine DACF Animal Health website for up-to-date information.
Q: What do we know about the coming months?
A: Because HPAI is being spread by migrating wild birds, it is difficult to predict what will happen over the next couple months. The trends observed with past North American HPAI outbreaks are that we often see a reprieve in the summer months. Summer is when the virus present on the landscape (outdoors) is degraded by sunlight and heat. Migratory waterfowl (ducks, geese, and shorebirds) moving south in the fall months are likely to shed AI virus again. It is critically important that poultry owners work now to provide indoor shelter for their birds through the fall and provide outdoor access only in covered poultry runs, allowing protection from predators and preventing contact with wild waterfowl and their droppings.
Q: Is it safe to purchase new birds for my flock this year?
A: It’s always recommended to only purchase birds from a reputable source that follows effective biosecurity protocols and closely monitors poultry health. NPIP Certified hatcheries monitor their breeder flocks for important chronic diseases, and are a recommended source for new poultry. In light of the nation-wide outbreak of Avian Influenza, it is more important than ever to follow cleaning and sanitation steps and only purchase birds with known health histories. You can find more detailed guidance from the USDA Defend the Flock Checklist for Adding or Replacing Poultry (PDF).
Q: What are the signs of HPAI in birds?
A: Sudden death without clinical signs; Lack of energy and appetite; Decreased egg production or soft-shelled or misshapen eggs; Swelling of the head, comb, eyelid, wattles, and hocks; Purple discoloration of wattles, comb, and legs; Nasal discharge, coughing, and sneezing; Incoordination; or Diarrhea. Learn more.
Q: How do I protect my flock from HPAI?
A: The best approach is to practice good biosecurity – this means keeping your birds separate from sources of disease, such as infected wild birds and their environment.
Q: What should I do if I have sick birds or large mortality in my flock?
A: Report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials, either through your state veterinarian or through USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593.
Q: Can people contract AI?
A: No cases of this particular strain of the avian influenza virus have been detected in humans in the United States. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recent detections of this strain of influenza in birds in Maine and several other states present a low risk to the public.
Q: Does HPAI present a food safety risk?
A: No, poultry and eggs are safe to eat when handled and cooked properly. Eggs from a known infected flock are safely disposed of.
Q: Is compensation offered to impacted flock owners?
A: Yes. Refer to the USDA APHIS website (PDF) to learn what is covered and how the process works.
According to the USDA, all bird owners, whether commercial producers or backyard enthusiasts, should:
- Practice protective security measures to help prevent disease
- Prevent contact between their birds and wild birds, and
- Report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials, either through your state veterinarian or through USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593.
For backyard and commercial poultry producers:
- USDA has many resources available for commercial poultry producers and backyard bird owners through its Defend the Flock campaign.
- Information about this campaign and links to toolkits containing biosecurity checklists, videos, and more, are available.
- Additional information and resources about HPAI and foreign animal disease preparedness are available.
DACF’s Animal Health team is also working closely with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC). Though this strain of avian influenza has not been detected in humans in the United States, Maine CDC is monitoring the health and wellbeing of Animal Health staff and flock owners who were exposed out of an abundance of caution. Signs and symptoms of bird flu infections in people can include fever (temperature of 100F or greater) or feeling feverish, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, fatigue, headaches, eye redness (or conjunctivitis), and difficulty breathing. Other possible symptoms are diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. As with seasonal flu, some people are at high risk of getting very sick from bird flu infections, including pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems, and people 65 and older. The U.S. CDC provides information on avian flu transmission at this link (PDF). The Maine CDC’s Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory is prepared to process samples and quickly provide results for anyone potentially exposed to the virus.
Media Contact: Jim Britt, DACF Director of Communications, (207) 480-0558, firstname.lastname@example.org