Poultry industry on heightened alert after vultures in Maryland die from avian flu

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The Delaware Department of Agriculture is warning poultry growers and those with backyard birds to continue to take steps to protect their flocks after sick vultures were found dead or ill with avian flu in Harford County, MD.

Harford is at the northern edge of the Delmarva-Upper Shore poultry-growing area. 

It marked the region’s first confirmation of HPAI in wild birds since February 17, when the virus was found through wildlife surveillance in Kent County, DE.

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Since the initial detection in Harford County, more than 100 black vultures have died from the disease, with the total likely to be higher.

The avian flu is known to be carried by wild birds, especially waterfowl, raptors, and vultures.  It is believed the vultures contracted the virus from eating infected migratory bird species.

Continuing testing of people in close contact with infected poultry indicates a low risk to the general public’s health. This H5N1 virus has not shown an ability to infect and be transmitted between people. Avian influenza does not affect poultry meat or egg products. Properly cooking poultry and eggs to 165 degrees Fahrenheit will kill viruses or bacteria.

Six farms on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and Delaware were identified as impacted by HPAI between February 23 and March 18, of this year. With the first confirmation in a commercial poultry farm, a state-federal response was initiated between the Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA), MDA, and USDA.

Suggested measures include

  • Covering waste
  • Removing standing water
  • Manage ponds and basins
  • Secure buildings
  • Reduce food sources
  • Use decoys

If growers see  sick poultry or experience increased mortality:

  • Commercial poultry producers should contact the company they grow for when they notice signs of disease.
  • Backyard flock owners who notice any signs of HPAI in their flock should contact:
    • In Delaware, email the Delaware Poultry Health Hotline at poultry.health@delaware.gov or call 302-698-4507 and provide your contact information, size of flock, location, and concerns.
    • In Maryland, report any unusual or sudden increases in sick birds to the MDA Animal Health Program at 410-841-5810. Commercial chicken growers and backyard flock owners can email questions about the outbreak to Birdflu@maryland.gov.
  • If you see sick or dead wild birds, do not handle or move them and report any sick wild birds.

For more information on avian influenza, visit de.gov/poultry or https://mda.maryland.gov/avianflu.

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