Backyard poultry at risk of deadly disease

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Backyard poultry owners should take careful biosecurity measures this fall to protect their animals from highly pathogenic avian influenza. HPAI is a strain of the flu that is extremely infectious and most often fatal to all poultry.

Within the past few weeks, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry has confirmed HPAI in backyard chickens in Tulsa and Creek counties. It has also been detected in wild waterfowl near Oklahoma City. Earlier this spring, HPAI cases were reported on a commercial poultry operation in eastern Oklahoma.

HPAI Signs and Symptoms

  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Extreme depression
  • Lack of energy
  • Decrease in feed or water intake
  • Swelling or purple discoloration of head, eyelids, comb, wattle and legs
  • Decrease in egg production
  • Sudden, unexplained death
  • Quietness among the flock

If poultry owners suspect HPAI, they should immediately contact one of the following:

  • Local county Extension educator: find your county
  • Oklahoma Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, 405-744-6623
  • ODAFF State Veterinarian, Rod Hall, 405-522-6141
  • Your local veterinarian

Methods of prevention

  • Restrict visitor access to birds
  • Prevent contact with wild birds (especially waterfowl)
  • Refrain from visiting other poultry operation locations
  • Set aside clothing and footwear to wear only when working with birds
  • Disinfect footwear before entering a barn or coop
  • Wash hands with soap and water before and after handling birds
  • Reduce availability of food, water and any potential nesting areas for wild birds
  • Fix holes in roofs, screens and walls of poultry barns or coops
  • Do not share equipment with other bird owners
  • Birds that have been near other poultry should be quarantined from the rest of the flock for at least 14 days

Officials with Oklahoma State University Extension and ODAFF said the risk of HPAI transmission to humans and other animals is low. If contact with the disease is suspected, the Oklahoma State Department of Health Acute Disease Service can help monitor for symptoms and arrange for testing and treatment. The organization’s on-call epidemiologist can be reached at 405-426-8710.

Learn more about how to prevent the spread of HPAI in this recent Vet Scripts segment on SUNUP, a television show produced by OSU Agriculture.

OSU Extension offers a helpful fact sheet on Small Flock Biosecurity for Prevention of Avian Influenza, and poultry owners can access other state and national HPAI updates through the ODAFF disease alert page.