Avian Flu Update for Vets


Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is an extremely contagious disease of birds. It often causes death in poultry. The HPAI outbreak that started in 2022 continues to impact many areas of the United States.

WHAT KINDS OF BIRDS ARE AT RISK? HPAI is highly contagious and often fatal in poultry, including chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, ducks, geese, and guinea fowl. It can be carried by free flying migratory waterfowl, such as ducks, geese, and shorebirds.

DOES HPAI INFECT PEOPLE? According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the current avian influenza strain does not present an immediate public health concern; however, there is always the potential of viral mutation. Poultry meat and products are safe when following CDC food preparation guidelines.

HOW IS IT SPREAD? In many previous outbreaks, HPAI was largely confined to and spread among commercial poultry. In this outbreak, the disease is most frequently introduced to new areas by migratory waterfowl. People can spread HPAI by moving infected birds or contaminated equipment and feed. People can also spread HPAI on clothing and vehicles. Because of their exposure to wild birds, small backyard and pet poultry flocks are very susceptible to HPAI.

WHAT DOES HPAI LOOK LIKE IN BIRDS? Signs of HPAI include sudden death, respiratory distress (nasal discharge, coughing, sneezing), lack of energy or appetite, decreased water consumption, decreased egg production or soft-shelled or misshapen eggs.

WHY IS AVIAN INFLUENZA STILL ONGOING? In previous outbreaks, the virus did not persist in wild birds populations and disappeared after being eliminated from commercial flocks. The current strain has established and continues to circulate in wild bird populations. It is critical that we remain vigilant, particularly in the coming months as migratory birds return north.

HOW CAN YOU HELP? Veterinarians have played a critical role in the early detection of HPAI, particularly in small flock or pet bird flocks. In fact, over 30 infected backyard flocks have been reported by small or mixed animal veterinarians. Please continue to reach out to your clients. Encourage them to remain vigilant and report HPAI like symptoms to the numbers listed below. Please continue providing biosecurity recommendations specific to small flocks. 

Report any suspicion of HPAI to your State Veterinarian or call USDA’s Sick Bird Hotline at 866-536-7593.

WANT TO LEARN MORE? For general HPAI information CLICK HERE. For biosecurity tips CLICK HERE. Many states and Universities have great information on their websites as well.  For example, the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Board of Animal Health have excellent information for small flock owners:  Avian influenza basics for urban and backyard poultry owners | UMN Extension