Have you heard about avian influenza? Nervous about “bird flu”? Here is what you should know about this worldwide virus.
While strains of avian influenza have been found in Southern Oregon as recently as December 2014, these strains are not the types that can be transmitted to humans. Some strains of influenza cause little or no disease, and others can cause serious disease and even death. Migratory waterfowl are the main reservoir for avian influenza.
Avian influenza virus can survive for a long time in the environment, including under freezing conditions. Transmission is typically from wild birds, especially waterfowl. The infection can spread from bird to bird, or be brought onto a farm on shoes, clothing, on equipment, or in manure.
Signs of illness may include no signs, sudden death, lethargy, poor appetite, decreased egg production, diarrhea, nasal discharge, coughing, and sneezing. Some birds will have swollen heads or faces with purple discoloration of combs, wattles or hocks.
For backyard flocks, the best prevention is to isolate your hens from other birds, especially migratory birds. Remove bird feeders near your coop. Do not allow access to ponds or food sources shared by other bird species and do not allow people or equipment access to your flock if they have been around other birds or chickens. Any equipment that you borrow should be thoroughly disinfected. Don’t handle sick or dead raptors, song birds or waterfowl.
There is no specific treatment for avian influenza.
For additional information, contact the Oregon Department of Agriculture AI Hotline at 1-800-347-7028.
Report wild bird die offs to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife at 1-866-968-2600.