Maine Animal Health Officials Encourage Bird Owners to Continue Protecting Flocks from HPAI as Wild Birds Migrate

Vigilance is still needed as HPAI continues to be detected in Maine’s wildlife.

AUGUSTA, ME — Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is a highly contagious virus that can be spread in various ways from flock to flock, including through wild birds, contact with infected poultry, equipment, and on the clothing and shoes of caretakers. Starting in February 2022, the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) reported detecting 12 cases of the disease in domestic birds, all involving non-commercial backyard flocks. DACF found these cases in six counties across the state. Though the DACF has not reported any HPAI cases in domestic bird flocks since June 29, 2022, the virus is still being detected in wild birds.

Wild birds were the most likely source of infection for three cases of HPAI reported in New England domestic birds this fall. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) will continue to update its website with information about HPAI in wild birds and mammals.

These wild bird detections, coupled with the fall migration, mean it is necessary to continue following preventive measures to protect domestic flocks and keep birds healthy.

Some key steps remain fundamental to protecting the health of Maine’s domestic birds:

  • Prevent contact between domestic and wild birds by bringing them indoors or ensuring their outdoor area is fully enclosed.
  • Practice strict biosecurity measures, including washing hands before and after handling birds and when moving between different coops, wearing clean clothes, and keeping vehicles clean and free of dirt, manure, and other organic material.
  • Disinfect boots and other gear when moving between coops.
  • Do not share equipment or other supplies between coops or other farms.
  • Clean and disinfect equipment and other supplies between uses.
  • Use well or municipal water as drinking water for birds.
  • Keep poultry feed secure to ensure no contact between the feed/feed ingredients and wild birds or rodents.
  • Avoid visiting other farms, homes, or facilities with birds.
  • Know the signs of HPAI and monitor the health of birds regularly.

For a snapshot of HPAI in Maine, the state’s response, a list of frequently asked questions, and additional HPAI resources visit  the Animal Health, Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) page ( DACF website).

To report sick poultry or unusual domestic bird deaths, call the USDA’s toll-free sick bird hotline at 1.866.536.7593.

To report a strange-acting or dead wild bird, call the MDIFW at 207.287.8000. After hours, evenings, and on weekends, please call 800.452.4664.

— From a media release from the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF), October 14, 2022. Submitted by Anne Lichtenwalner, DVM Ph.D., Retired University of Maine Associate Professor of Animal and Veterinary Sciences and Director of the UMaine Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.