Poultry producers and bird owners should be cautious after HPAI case
Posted 2:17 pm Tuesday, November 8, 2022
By Robert Nathan Gregory
MSU Extension Service
STARKVILLE — The Mississippi Board of Animal Health is asking backyard bird owners to be vigilant about their biosecurity procedures after a flock of commercially raised chickens in Lawrence County tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI. .
The US Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory confirmed the case to the Mississippi Board of Animal Health, or MBAH, on November 5. Samples from the flock were analyzed at the Mississippi Veterinary Diagnostic and Research Laboratory in Pearl and confirmed at the USDA Plant Health Inspection Service National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa.
HPAI is a highly contagious form of avian influenza that can kill entire flocks of infected poultry. The virus can occur naturally in wild waterfowl and can be transmitted to poultry.
The virus does not pose a food safety risk; poultry products cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees are still safe to eat. However, rapid spread can shut down business and backyard operations.
MBAH State Veterinarian Jim Watson said his agency has quarantined the affected site and is working with the poultry industry to increase surveillance of flocks statewide.
“The birds on the property have been depopulated to prevent the spread of disease and will not enter the food system,” Watson said. “Anyone involved in poultry production, from the small backyard to the large commercial producer, should review their biosecurity activities to ensure the health of their birds.”
MBAH lists the following symptoms for infected birds: coughing, sneezing, incoordination, diarrhea, runny nose, sudden death, decreased egg production, lack of energy or appetite, soft-shelled or misshapen eggs, and swelling or purple discoloration. of the head, eyelids, comb or hocks.
Jessica Wells, a poultry specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said biosecurity is the key to preventing the spread of the disease. There are several steps producers must take, including washing hands before and after leaving chicken areas. Do not recycle garbage or food from a suspect site for use as fertilizer or for any other purpose.
“Once avian influenza has entered a flock of birds, it can spread rapidly on the farm through both the fecal-oral and respiratory routes due to the close proximity of the birds,” Wells said. “Objects such as clothing, shoes and equipment also transmit the disease, so it is imperative to wear footwear designated exclusively for the chicken area and to change clothes before entering.”
Do not handle dead birds with bare hands. To remove dead birds from a bird area, turn two plastic bags upside down, lift the bird up, and invert and double-seal the bag with the bird inside.
“To dispose of the bird, place the bag in a household trash can or shovel it in without touching it,” Watson said. “To store a dead bird for testing, use clear plastic bags to collect and store the animal, and place it in cold packs until it can be refrigerated.”
Backyard bird owners can report any sick or dying birds using the Board of Animal Health web portal at https://agnet.mdac.ms.gov/MBAHReportableDiseases/publicreportingform or use the MBAH Animal Disaster Hotline at 1-888-646-8731.
Visit the MBAH Avian Influenza Frequently Asked Questions database at https://hpai.ms.gov/information/frequently-asked-questions/ and see MSU Extension Poultry Publications for more information at http:// extension.msstate.edu/avian-influenza.