According to the USDA, avian influenza was positively identified in a backyard flock in Leavenworth County, Kansas, on March 13, 2015. That’s a little too close to home for this country girl, so I have done a bit more research to educate myself on how to protect my own backyard flock from succumbing to this disease.
Avian influenza is a respiratory disease of birds, including chickens, ducks, turkeys, quail, guinea fowl, geese and pheasants. Some strains are highly pathogenic and have very high (as much as 100 percent) mortality rates, and the USDA refers to them as HPAI (highly pathogenic avian influenza) viruses. More troubling is that some strains of the virus have, in the past, been able to cross from birds to humans.
There have been two strains recently identified in poultry in the United States – H5N8 and H5N2. So far neither of these have caused any human illnesses, which is the good news. The bad news is that the currently circulating viruses are deadly to poultry. Even if some birds survive, they are often euthanized to prevent further spread of the disease.
The disease is easily transmissible on equipment, clothing, manure, vehicles, etc. Avian influenza can survive in a moderate temperature environment for a very long time and can survive indefinitely in freezing temperatures.
There are some biosecurity measures we backyard poultry producers can implement to help protect our flocks. This is a very brief look at some things to do.
More extensive information can be found at the USDA’s website here.
A current list of areas with poultry that have tested positive for avian influenza can be found here.
Please note that if you have more questions, you should contact your local extension agent, your veterinarian, or the USDA.