OSU Agriculture warns flock owners of avian influenza

KTUL - November 6, 2023 3:11 am

One of the most proactive ways to prevent avian influenza is to reduce exposure between domestic birds and wild waterfowl. (Photo by Todd Johnson, OSU Agriculture)

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza has been reported in backyard poultry flocks in Carter, Wagoner, and Grady counties says Oklahoma State University Agriculture. A case of the virus has also been reported with a domestic swan in Oklahoma County.

OSU Agriculture is warning all Oklahoma poultry producers and backyard flock owners to be on high alert and practice strict biosecurity protocols.

According to Oklahoma State veterinarian Doctor Rod Hall, poultry and eggs are safe to consume when prepared properly, but this strain of avian influenza is killing chickens quickly.

“We encourage flock owners to do all they can to eliminate domestic poultry exposure to wild waterfowl, areas where wild waterfowl gather and domestic waterfowl that mingle with wild waterfowl,” Dr. Hall said.

OSU Extension and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry animal health experts also said more cases are likely this fall. This is due to wild waterfowl migrating south.

“Bird owners should take all biosecurity precautions, especially preventing exposure of domestic poultry to wild waterfowl,” said Doctor Rosslyn Biggs, OSU Extension veterinarian and director of continuing education for the OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Doctor Barry Whitworth, senior OSU Extension specialist and state Beef Quality Assurance program coordinator in the OSU Department of Animal and Food Sciences, said avian influenza is a major threat to the US and Oklahoma poultry industries.

“It is the responsibility of all commercial and backyard poultry producers to do everything in their power to protect this industry,” Dr. Whitworth said.

Hall said while this strain of avian influenza has not shown the ability to infect humans and make them ill, people should take precautions.

“Viruses mutate, so people with exposure to sick poultry should use personal protective equipment,” he said.

Signs and symptoms of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza are:

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

OSU Agriculture recommends that flock owners follow the biosecurity standards such as:

  • 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 the 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 from the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture also advise poultry owners to check with all states of destinations for exports of poultry and hatching eggs. This includes anyone who’s traveling with poultry or hatching eggs out of state, even if they are returning with them to Oklahoma. Due to Oklahoma’s HPAI cases, many states will have and implement emergency restrictions or additional testing requirements.

If flock owners are concerned about illness in their birds, they should contact their veterinarian, a county extension educator, or the state veterinarian’s office at 405-522-6141.


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