Poultry owners warned of dangerous avian influenza

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By Max Bowen-max.bowen@northstarreporter.com

Poultry owners are advised to take precautions as a Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has been found in both wild water and domestic birds along the east coast, including Massachusetts.

According to information provided by the state Department of Agricultural Resources, the influenza was first detected earlier this year, and surveillance of domestic and wild birds is ongoing. Domestic poultry are exposed to HPAI through contact with infected birds, their droppings, or feathers. Pastures, yards, ponds, and equipment can easily become contaminated with HPAI virus.

Health Agent Sheri Miller-Bedau said that no cases of avian influenza have been reported in North Attleborough. The town has properties where such animals are permitted under the zoning, and others where poultry can be kept if a special permit or variance is approved.

No humans have become infected with HPAI virus in the U.S., though humans can inadvertently move contaminated material into contact with domestic birds through use of contaminated equipment, clothing and footwear, and vehicle tires.

Most poultry, including chickens, turkeys, guinea fowl, and game birds like pheasants, will die within days of exposure to HPAI,” a statement from the MDAR read. “Wild and domestic ducks and some other species can be infected without ever becoming sick.”

Owners are recommended to practice biosecurity, meaning taking the steps necessary to reduce the chances of infectious disease being carried onto the property.

Watch for Signs of Disease

It is important to know the warning signs of diseases such as avian influenza. Birds with HPAI produce more virus over time. Early detection helps prevent the spread of disease.

Increase in unexplained deaths in your flock, with or without symptoms

Sneezing, gasping for air, coughing, and/ or runny nose

Decrease in water or feed consumption

Watery, green diarrhea

Lack of energy or unusually quiet

Drop in egg production, or soft or thin-shelled, misshapen eggs

Swelling around the eyes, neck, or head

Purple discoloration of the wattles, combs, and legs

Biosecurity Measures

Keep birds in a safe environment.

Make sure everyone that cares for the birds follows all biosecurity plans. Follow biosecurity protocols every time poultry areas are entered.

Wear separate, dedicated clothing and shoes when working with birds.

Clean up spilled feed and discourage wild birds from accessing feed and poultry areas.

Do not enter poultry areas or handle birds or equipment after hunting, fishing, or coming in contact with any other birds or areas that wild birds frequent.

Never buy birds from unknown sources like auctions or other live bird markets.

Care for birds in order of age and health – youngest to oldest. House sick birds separately and provide care for them last. Ideally, a separate person should care for sick birds.

Report sick or dead poultry to the Mass. Dept. of Agricultural Resources, Animal Health Division at 617-626-1795 or the USDA at 1-866-536-7593.