Keeping Homesteading Chickens Safe from Avian Influenza
Avian influenza (AI), also known as avian flu or bird flu, is an infectious viral disease of birds, and often do not show signs on apparent illness. AI viruses can sometimes spread to domestic poultry and cause a large scale outbreak of disease. There have been reported cases of AI viruses causing disease to cross species by infecting humans and other mammals.
Avian viruses can be divided into two groups by their ability to cause decease in poultry. High pathogenicity and low pathogenicity. High pathogenicity viruses result in a high chance of death (100% and death in less than 48 hours) in some poultry. Low pathogenicity viruses also cause decease in poultry, but generally do not cause severe decease.
There are ongoing circulations of A (H5N1) and A (H7N9) viruses in poultry. These viruses have the potential to cause serious disease among humans and change into a farm that is more transmissible among other humans. Other subtypes also circulate in animals and may pose a threat to public health.
The current best way to prevent infection with avian influenza viruses is to avoid sources of exposure. Most human infections have occurred following direct or prolonged contact with sick or dead poultry.
Domestic poultry may become infected with AI through direct contact with infected waterfowl or other infected poultry, or contact with surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus.
Cleaning and disinfecting is one of the most important steps in practicing backyard biosecurity. Here are some examples:
– Thoroughly clean and scrub objects before applying disinfectants, because they cannot work on unclean surfaces, so wash before you disinfect.
– Apply disinfectants by using brushes, sponges and spray units. Allow adequate contact time (follow manufacturer’s instructions).
– Dispose of used disinfectants according to the local regulations.
Why be concerned:
Not only can an outbreak of AI harm and kill your domestic birds, it can spread among other birds and even people. Early detection and reporting is the most important step in stopping a disease outbreak. Backyard biosecurity means doing everything you can in order to protect your birds from disease. Having domestic birds as an owner and keeping them safe is top priority. Having at least one bird infected by a disease, can end up with all of your birds getting infected in a single day. However by practicing backyard biosecurity you can keep your birds safe and healthy.
Keeping distance: Restrict access to your birds, consider fencing off the area where your birds are to form a barrier between ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ areas. Think of the area ‘dirty’ as an area infected with germs.
Keeping it clean: You wouldn’t walk with muddy shoes into your home, so don’t do it with the birds either. Germs can be picked up on shoes and clothing and moved from one area to another. For security, keep spare clothing and footwear for just when you are around your birds. Scrub and wash that clothing after and before entering the area where you keep your birds.
Don’t bring the disease home: Going somewhere to pick up bird cages and other equipment with a car or any other means of transport is not 100% safe. If the equipment comes from an area that has other birds present, make sure to clean the equipment and the vehicle after arriving home.
Know the signs: Many bird disease can be hard to notice and difficult to diagnose. There are signs you can look out for:
– Sudden increase in bird death among your flock.
– Sneezing, gasping for air, coughing and nasal discharge.
– Watery and green diarrhea.
– Lack of energy and poor appetite.
– Lower egg production or soft and thin shelled misshapen eggs.
– Swelling around the eyes, neck and head.
– Purple discoloration of the wattles, combs and legs.
– Tremors, dropping wings, circling, lack of movement.
Remember it is also very important to report sick birds as soon as you see any signs of an infection or disease. Do not be afraid to report it even if it a mistake, better safe than sorry.
Between December 15, 2014, and May 29, 2015, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirmed more than 200 findings of birds infected with highly-pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A (H5N2), (H5N8), and (H5N1) viruses. The majority of these infections have occurred in poultry, including backyard and commercial flocks. USDA surveillance indicates that more than 40 million birds have been affected (either infected or exposed) in 20 states. These are the first reported infections with these viruses in US wild or domestic birds as quoted by Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
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