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Avian influenza confirmed in Kidder County chicken flock

It is the first case of highly pathogenic avian influenza in North Dakota since 2015.

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Poultry farmers should monitor for signs of highly pathogenic avian influenza and practice good biosecurity.
Contributed / North Dakota State University Extension Service

BISMARCK – The United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza in a noncommercial, backyard chicken flock in Kidder County.

A presumptive positive case was first identified by the North Dakota State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and confirmed by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa.

“This is the first case of HPAI (highly pathogenic avian influenza) in poultry in the state since 2015,” Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said. “Protecting our North Dakota producers, who raise approximately 1 million commercial birds yearly, and our many backyard bird owners is high priority.”

The North Dakota State University Extension Service said avian influenza was also confirmed in a wild snow goose in North Dakota on March 24. The Extension Service said the North Dakota Game and Fish Department sampled a wild bird mortality in Burleigh County that was confirmed positive by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.

The State Board of Animal Health and the North Dakota Department of Agriculture are working closely with USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and local officials in the response.

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The premises have been quarantined and the flock was depopulated to prevent the spread of the disease, the North Dakota Department of Agriculture said. Birds from the flock will not enter the food system.

Domestic birds in a 10-km control zone around the affected farm are being contacted and monitored to help prevent the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza, the North Dakota Department of Agriculture said.

There is no immediate public health concern due to this finding. The risk to people from highly pathogenic avian influenza is low despite the disease often being fatal for birds, and no human infections with these viruses have been detected in the U.S., the North Dakota Department of Agriculture said.

“Poultry owners should immediately report unusual death loss, a drop in egg production or sick birds to their local veterinarian to decrease the impact HPAI may have on the region,” said Dr. Ethan Andress, state veterinarian. “Remember to restrict access to property, keep wild birds away from other birds and practice enhanced biosecurity. Hunters who are also bird owners should dress game birds in the field whenever possible and use dedicated footwear and tools to clean game.”

Avian influenza exists in many wild birds and can be transmitted by contact with infected birds or ingestion of infected food and water.

Biosecurity is an essential defense for anyone’s flock against avian influenza, said Mary Keena, NDSU Extension livestock environmental management specialist. She said pay special attention to the line between the clean flock and the “dirty” environment.

Keena gave the following tips to prevent the spread of avian influenza in poultry flocks:

  • Carefully follow safe entry and exit procedures into your flock’s clean area.
  • Shower, change clothes and clean and disinfect footwear before entering your poultry housing areas.
  • Reduce the attractiveness for wild birds to stop at your place by cleaning up litter and spilled feed around poultry housing areas.
  • If you have free range guinea fowl and waterfowl, consider bringing them into coops or flight pens under nets to prevent interaction of domesticated poultry with wild birds and their droppings.
  • It is best to restrict visitors from interacting with your birds at this time.
  • Backyard flock owners should practice strict biosecurity, including preventing birds from exposure and/or co-mingling with wild birds and other types of poultry.

“Any unexplained increase in mortality, decreased water consumption, decreased egg production, respiratory issues, purple or dry combs or neurologic (twisted necks or quiet) signs of disease should be investigated,” said Miranda Meehan, NDSU Extension livestock environmental stewardship specialist. “Make sure the people who work with your birds daily (either you or your workers) know what to look for. If you find multiple sick or dead birds in your flock and you cannot explain their death, contact your veterinarian, even if all other birds look fine.”
Meehan said flock owners should not handle sick or deceased birds. She said to minimize direct contact by using proper personal protective equipment.

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She said to wear gloves and wash hands with soap and water after touching any birds or any contaminated surfaces. Wear respiratory protection such as a medical facemask if available and wear clean clothes when coming into contact with healthy domestic birds. Discard the gloves and facemask, and then wash your hands with soap and water when you leave the area.

More information about avian influenza is available at www.nd.gov/ndda/disease/avian-influenza and from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service at www.aphis.usda.gov . Subsequent detections of highly pathogenic avian influenza in North Dakota will be posted on www.nd.gov/ndda/hpai .

Masaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, N.D. He majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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