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Friday, April 8, 2022

Biosecurity recommended as virus decimates backyard flock:

Ag and Markets: Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza found in Orleans County backyard flock

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza has been confirmed in a backyard flock in Orleans County.

The disease was found Tuesday, according to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets. The private flock of 31 birds included chickens and guinea fowl.

Ag and Markets officials declined to state where the flock was located, citing confidentiality reasons. They said 28 birds died from the disease and the remaining three birds will be destroyed.

“The Department will be conducting additional outreach to flock owners within the surrounding area to ensure that they are aware of the detection in their area and are taking additional precautions to protect their flocks,” the officials said in an emailed response to The Daily News.

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza virus strains are extremely infectious and often fatal to domestic poultry, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. The disease — abbreviated as HPAI — can spread quickly from flock to flock.

The virus lives in the respiratory and intestinal tracts of birds. It can be picked up from contact with infected feces, surfaces or through the air, although aerial transmission from farm to farm is unlikely.

The virus can be transported on infected feed, clothing or equipment. Once on the farm, the disease is readily passed from bird to bird, quickly infecting an entire flock.

Cases were detected earlier this month in Dutchess, Ulster, and Suffolk counties, and last week in Monroe County.

Although generally not a hazard to humans, highly pathogenic avian influenza presents a serious financial hazard to poultry farms and similar agricultural producers.

Ag and Markets personnel continue to work closely with the USDA on a joint incident response to the disease’s spread in New York.

“The detections of HPAI in New York prompt reminders for commercial and hobby poultry farmers to increase their biosecurity measures to help prevent the spread of the disease,” Ag and Markets officials said. “Poultry owners should keep their birds away from wild ducks and geese and their droppings. Outdoor access for poultry should be limited at this time.”

Ag and Markets issued an order on March 25 banning all live fowl shows and exhibitions statewide to help prevent the disease’s spread. The current outbreak has struck 17 states so far and is rapidly expanding nationwide.

A highly pathogenic strain of the disease hit the U.S. in 2014 and was considered the nation’s largest animal health emergency. More than 50 million birds were infected and later died, or were euthanized on more than 200 farms in 15 states.

The disease does not present an immediate public health concern for humans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No human cases have been detected in the U.S.

Birds infected with the HPAI virus may show symptoms including:

■ Sudden death without clinical signs.

■ Lack of energy and appetite.

■ Decreased egg production or soft-shelled or misshapen eggs.

■ Swelling of head, comb, eyelid, wattles, and hocks.

■ Purple discoloration of wattles, comb, and legs.

■ Nasal discharge, coughing, and sneezing.

■ Incoordination.

■ Diarrhea.

Ag and Markets recommends all producers — from backyard flocks to large commercial operations — review their biosecurity and take steps including:

■ Discourage unnecessary visitors and use biosecurity signs to warn people not to enter buildings without permission.

■ Ask all visitors if they have had any contact with any birds in the past five days.

■ Forbid entry to employees and visitors who own any kind of fowl.

■ Require all visitors to cover and disinfect all footwear.

■ Lock all entrances to chicken houses after hours.

■ Avoid non-essential vehicular traffic on-farm.

■ After hauling birds to processors, clean and disinfect poultry transport coops and vehicles before they return to the farm.

Report anything unusual, especially sick or dead birds, to Ag and Markets.

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