Avian Influenza Alert

SEDALIA, Mo. – Officials from the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) are issuing warnings to poultry producers and backyard flock owners about the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in Missouri.  In addition, according to a March 9, 2022 news release, MDA is suspending “…all domestic waterfowl and waterfowl egg auctions, shows and swap meets through the end of May.”

From the MDA website: “Avian influenza viruses, commonly called “bird flu,” are influenza type A viruses that naturally occur in bird populations. The viruses are transmitted from bird to bird through fecal droppings, saliva, and nasal discharges. Avian influenza viruses can infect poultry (such as chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, domestic ducks, geese, and guinea fowl) and wild birds (especially waterfowl).”

According to information posted on MDA’s website, HPAI is “a serious disease and requires rapid response because it is highly contagious and often fatal to chickens.”  Currently, HPAI has been found in four counties in Missouri: Stoddard, Bates, Jasper, and Lawrence.

Symptoms of HPAI include a decrease in water or feed consumption, respiratory signs, such as coughing and sneezing, quietness among the flock, decrease in egg production, and sudden increase of death in your flock.  If you see any of these symptoms in your flock, do not wait to report sick birds.  Immediately contact your local veterinarian or the MDA Animal Health Division at (573) 751-3377.

Even though this is a deadly virus to poultry, chicken and other poultry products are safe to eat if they are properly handled and cooked.  A March 4, 2022 news release from MDA further states: “According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the recent HPAI detections do not present an immediate public health concern. No human cases of these avian influenza viruses have been detected in the United States”.

The main preventative measure against HPAI is diligent biosecurity of bird flocks, including both commercial and backyard flocks.  Backyard flocks can be particularly susceptible due to the increased possibility of contact with wild birds.

Biosecurity measures include limiting the number of people who have access to birds.  Do not visit other poultry operations or backyard flocks.  Have dedicated footwear and clothing when working with your birds.  Disinfect footwear before entering your barn or coop.  Wash hands with soap and water before and after handling birds.  Restrict as much as possible domestic bird contact with wild poultry by reducing the availability of food, water, and nesting areas for wild birds.  Fix access points such as holes in roofs, walls and screens of barns or coops.

Due to the importance of the poultry industry in this part of the state, please be diligent about monitoring flocks for symptoms of this disease and take appropriate action without delay.

MDA’s website https://agriculture.mo.gov contains further information and updates.  If you suspect HPAI in your flock, contact MDA’s Animal Health Division at (573) 751-3377.