Sound Ag Advice

Multiple cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) have now been confirmed in North Dakota. Mary Keena, NDSU Extension livestock environmental management specialist, joins Sound Ag Advice to discuss what poultry owners and the public should know about this virus.

What is Sound Ag Advice?

“Sound Ag Advice” presented by the NDSU Extension Service features NDSU Extension specialists and staff talking about current crop and livestock issues. “Sound Ag Advice” is free and can be used in any way you see fit.

Speaker 1: Kelli Anderson, NDSU Agriculture Communication Specialist
Speaker 2 Mary Keena, NDSU Extension Livestock Environmental Management Specialist

Kelli: This is Sound Ag Advice, a weekly feature presented by NDSU Extension. I'm Kelli Anderson and I'm joined this week by Mary Keena, NDSU Extension livestock environmental management specialist. Today we're going to be talking about Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). We've been hearing about it a lot on the news, and it's recently been confirmed in a backyard flock in Kidder County. So Mary, what is highly pathogenic avian influenza, and what are some important things the public should know about it.

Mary: So highly pathogenic avian influenza or HPAI, another way you may have heard of it is an influenza. So it's type A virus, or also known as influenza A. So, this is an influenza that affects birds. And it's detected in wild birds all throughout the U.S., especially right now we're seeing it. And the reason we have it here is because of the migratory actions that are happening right now, and so in the flyways, because the wild birds are coming over and stopping, they actually carry this disease with them. And while a lot of wild birds are immune to its affects the domestic birds are not, and so that's where we see an issue with our domestic birds.
Some important things to know right off the bat, this is something that is not going to affect the food system. And so as far as any kind of confirmed case does not go into our food system, our poultry and our eggs are still safe to eat, we still want to continue to consume that product. But always even if we don't have highly pathogenic avian influenza as a concern, we still want to cook that meat to 165 F and make sure eggs are cooked just for food-safety concerns all the time.

Kelli: So if I own a poultry operation, or if I keep some chickens in my backyard, what are some things that I could do as a poultry owner to prevent my flock from contracting HPAI?

Mary: Biosecurity is going to be your best friend. And so there are something that we call a line of separation when we talk about biosecurity. So that line is operation, you can just imagine like a line drawn in the sand, one side of that line is clean, and the other side is dirty. The clean side is considered your birds that's clean to them, their environment is clean, and then anything outside that line is dirty, any kind of shoes or clothing equipment, anything that is typically on the dirty side should not cross that line into the clean side. So, some really simple things you can do; washing your hands with warm, soapy water, making sure that you change your shoes. Right now in North Dakota, we still have to wear boots because it's cold out. But those boots, you should have clean boots, boots that you wear on the clean side, and then you have boots that you wear to the grocery store. So two different kinds of footwear that you would use, biosecurity is going to be our main thing.

Another thing that we can do with wildlife migrating, is to make our places less attractive to them. Doing things like making sure our feed is cleaned up, making sure your litter is cleaned up around our areas. We don't want to attract wildlife to our places because they carry it in their feces and in their mucus and their saliva. And so when they stop and defecate that leaves the virus and the potential for your birds to get that virus.

Kelli: If I'm a poultry owner and I suspect my birds might have contracted this, what are some signs to watch for?

Mary: One of the first signs or clues is a decrease in water consumption. And so, if you notice that your birds are typically drinking a certain amount of water, and then pretty soon you wonder, why aren't they drinking that water? What's going on? They're not thirsty today. That's a first really good sign to think about and say, Okay, now I really need to watch my birds. After that, we're going to look for are they being quiet? Do they seem depressed, if you have layers, and they're laying less eggs than normal, what the heck is going on? Are they consuming less food? And then other signs that will be more visual for you, would be like if their combs are purple or dry. If they have swelling of the eyes. If they look sick, that is a really great indicator that something is going on.

Kelli: And finally, Mary, if we suspect something is going on what should be our next steps?

Mary: Your local vet is in contact with our state officials and they know what to do. And so your first call should always be your local vet. If for some reason you can't get ahold of them, you can call our state vet's office, their phone number is 701-328 -2655. And so, you'll call them and just tell them what's going on, what signs you're seeing, and they'll get in contact with someone that can properly sample those birds.

This year in the United States, there have been no cases of it actually going from bird to human. But it is zoonotic which means that it can go from species to species. And so if you have a sick bird, we don't want to handle that bird. And I know it's really hard because we know our animals really well, and we want to see what's going on. But that's a really important point is we don't want to handle them. If you do have to handle them, let's wear gloves. Let's put on a medical mask and then wash our hands and we're done. That's going be really important.

Kelli: Wonderful information from Mary Keena, our livestock environmental management specialists at NDSU Extension. This has been Sound Ag Advice, a weekly feature presented by NDSU Extension.