Avian Influenza (AI) and Biosecurity

Springtime is a bad time of year for AI spread.

  • Moist cool days allow survival of virus (compared to hot summer days)
  • Spring wet weather results in puddles and ponds (perhaps not this year?)
  • Migratory waterfowl promotes the transmission

Small backyard flocks are a major concern. Often they are housed in open areas which allows

  • exposure to wild birds/waterfowl
  • access to ponds, puddles, and other water sources where wild birds may have access too.

Monitoring flocks/birds may not be adequate.

  • The first signs may be dead birds.
  • Flock owners may be unsure of the clinical signs of disease.

AI Pathogenicity (types H5 & H7)

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (Hi Path AI)

  • Causes sudden onset of mortality (death).

Low pathogenic avian influenza (Lo Path AI)

  • May not cause clinical disease.
  • Often found in wild birds and waterfowl.

Lo Path can convert (mutate) to Hi Path

Clinical signs of AI (taken from USDA website)

Birds infected with the HPAI virus may show one or more of the following signs:

  • Sudden death without clinical signs;
  • Lack of energy and appetite;
  • Decreased egg production or soft-shelled or misshapen eggs;
  • Swelling of head, comb, eyelid, wattles, and hocks
  • Purple discoloration of wattles, comb, and legs;
  • Nasal discharge, coughing, and sneezing;
  • Incoordination; or
  • Diarrhea

Other diseases can cause the same or similar clinical signs of disease. Examples are:

  • Newcastle disease, and
  • Infectious bronchitis.

What to do if you think your birds may have AI

Contact an authority

  • Your local veterinarian
  • Your state's veterinarian’s office (In Nebraska, contact Dr. Dudley, 402-471-2351)
  • USDA (866-536-7593)
  • Dr. Don Reynolds, UNL poultry specialist, (402-472-8810)

What happens next? Testing, currently at no cost to owner.

  • Tracheal swabs will be taken and tested for AI by RTPCR at the Nebraska Veterinary Diagnostic Center (NVDC) on East Campus.
  • The results will be done within a day.
  • If negative the results are reported to the owner and nothing more happens.
  • If positive for AI:
  • Federal (USDA) and state veterinarians are informed (and take over).
  • Samples are immediately sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) for confirmation.
  • Premise will be quarantined.
  • Typically, birds will be humanely euthanized/depopulated and disposed of in a biosecure way.

Following depopulation:

  • Indemnity payments are made to owners.
  • Owners and other personnel are monitored for influenza disease by public health department.

It is important to understand:

  • AI is zoonotic.
  • There is a low probability of infecting humans.
  • Eggs and poultry products are not transmitters of disease to people

How to protect your birds

Limit exposure of birds to outside (at least until warm summer weather)

  • Ponds, puddles, etc.
  • Wild birds (especially waterfowl)
  • Beware of wild birds using your feeders and waterers and prevent it.

Limit visitors – especially those that have poultry.

Limit exposure to other birds – shows, meets, swaps, etc.

Quarantine any newly acquired birds.

  • Separate facility away from other birds
  • Separate for two weeks.

Properly clean and disinfect waterers, feeders, coops, etc., routinely

Latest information on AI outbreak from USDA

For more on biosecurity: