September 19, 2023

Delaware Department of Agriculture issues bird flu warnings

DOVER – The Delaware Department of Agriculture has been warning poultry owners since January to take extra precautions to protect their birds given detections of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in wild birds in the Delaware flyway. Atlantic. But after a case of bird flu was announced last week at a commercial poultry farm in New Castle County, the DDA is reminding owners that biosecurity is the best way to protect bird health.

The Atlantic Flyway is an important north-south flyway for migratory birds in North America. The route typically begins in Greenland, then follows the Atlantic coast of Canada, then south along the Atlantic coast to tropical South America and the Caribbean.

Biosecurity refers to anything people can do to protect their flock to keep anything that causes disease away from birds, property and people.

Avian influenza is an airborne respiratory virus that spreads easily among chickens through nasal and eye secretions, as well as manure. The virus can be spread in a variety of ways from flock to flock, including through wild birds, contact with infected poultry, equipment, and on the clothes and shoes of keepers.

Wild birds usually do not show signs of illness, but they can shed the virus at high levels in their manure or feces if infected. In fact, one gram of contaminated manure, enough to cover a penny, can infect a million birds. Therefore, poultry in Delaware are at risk of exposure if they have access to areas where waterfowl and free-flying wild birds are present in the environment. Additionally, if a person walks through contaminated manure while traveling, they can carry the virus back to their household birds, where the birds can eat it, causing infection.

What to do, especially when wild birds fly overhead, dropping faeces everywhere during their migration:

  • Keep your poultry away from wild ducks, geese and their surroundings, including ponds, lakes and marshy areas.
  • Prevent small flocks from sharing habitat with wild waterfowl by maintaining outdoor enclosures with sturdy roofs and wire mesh or mesh sides. Repair any holes or tears that would allow birds or rodents to enter.
  • Provide food and water in a covered or covered area. Change it daily and clean up any spilled food promptly so as not to attract wildlife.
  • Wear designated farm shoes when working with your birds or use disposable shoe covers whenever you enter your flock area. If you have multiple coops, have a dedicated set of shoes that you keep in each coop. Use footbaths before entering a chicken coop.
  • Wash your hands before and after working with your birds to reduce the risk of spreading infectious particles.
  • Clean and disinfect any equipment or chicken coop before bringing them onto your property. The bird flu virus can survive in manure for several months, especially with high humidity and low temperatures.
  • Starlings, songbirds, vultures and other raptors can carry bird flu and show no signs of illness. Consider hanging a bird scarer on the door of chicken coops while the doors are open when working in the coop.
  • Wash your vehicles and trailers after visiting other poultry facilities and go through a car wash before returning home.
  • Keep visitors to a minimum. Only allow people who have direct responsibility for caring for your flock to come into contact with the birds. Keep track of everyone entering your property at any time using a logbook. If they have been in contact with other poultry, have pet birds, or have had contact with wild birds (eg hunting), do not let them come into contact with your flock.

When adding birds to your flock, be sure to purchase them from a reputable source. Chicks purchased from local farm shops come from NPIP certified flocks tested and free of bird flu. When they are two weeks old, these chicks usually leave the store with their new owner, so they are considered to be at low risk of having the disease. However, once they are around three weeks old, they are more susceptible to contracting the virus from their new environment. Be sure to keep new or returning show birds separate from established original flocks for 30 days.

Regardless of size, all poultry operations should monitor flocks for any signs of increased mortality. Pay close attention to see if any birds show signs of illness or respiratory distress, such as sneezing, gasping, coughing and/or runny nose. Other signs of HPAI in poultry can include swelling around the eyes, neck and head; purple discoloration of wattles, combs and legs; tremors, drooping wings, circling, twisting of the head and neck, or any combination; watery, green diarrhea; lack of energy, lack of appetite; and decreased egg production, or soft or thin-shelled and misshapen eggs.

Backyard flock owners who notice any of the signs of HPAI in their flock should contact the Delaware Poultry Health Hotline at 302-698-4507 or email [email protected] with contact information, flock size, location, and concerns. . Backyard flock owners will be contacted if a sample needs to be taken. Do not take dead or sick birds to a laboratory for testing and do not move them off site.

Commercial poultry producers should follow procedures for contacting the company they are growing for when they notice signs of illness.