Poultry owners urged to take precautions after avian flu is found in Eastern Shore flock

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Photo courtesy of Delmarva Poultry Industry.
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The Delaware Department of Agriculture urged all poultry owners, including commercial producers and backyard flock owners, to take precautions confirmed to have tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).

Further confirmation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory is pending.

Avian influenza is an airborne respiratory virus that spreads easily among chickens through nasal and eye secretions, as well as manure. The virus can be spread in various ways from flock to flock, including by wild birds, through contact with infected poultry, by equipment, and on the clothing and shoes of caretakers.

Wild birds typically do not show signs of illness but can shed the virus at high levels in their manure or droppings if infected. In fact, one gram of contaminated manure, enough to cover a dime, can infect one million birds.

Therefore, Delaware poultry is at risk from exposure if they can access areas where free-flying waterfowl and wild birds are in the environment. Additionally, if a person steps in contaminated manure they can bring the virus back to their domesticated birds.

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What to do

  • Wear designated farm clothing and shoes when working with your birds, or use disposable shoe coverings each time you enter your flock area. If you have multiple chicken houses, have a dedicated pair of footwear that you keep in each house. Use footbaths before entering a chicken house.
  • Wash hands before and after working with birds to reduce the chance of spreading infectious particles.
  • Clean and disinfect any equipment or bird housing/coops before bringing them onto your property. Avian influenza can survive in manure for several months, especially with high moisture and low temperatures.
  • Starlings, songbirds, vultures, and other raptors can be carriers of avian influenza and not show signs of disease. Consider hanging a bird deterrent in the poultry house doorway when working in the poultry house while doors are open.
  • Wash vehicles and trailers after visiting other poultry facilities and go through a car wash before returning home.
  • Keep visitors to a minimum.
  • When adding birds to your flock, purchase them from a reputable source. The Delaware Department of Agriculture requires the registration of all locations where live poultry is kept.

According to a release, all poultry farms should be monitoring flocks for any signs of increased mortality.

If you see sick birds or increased mortality in flocks

  • Commercial poultry producers should follow the procedures of contacting the company they grow for when they notice signs of disease.
  • Delaware backyard flock owners who notice any signs of HPAI in their flock should call the Delaware Poultry Health Hotline at 302-698-4507 or email poultry.health@delaware.gov and provide your contact information, flock size, location, and concerns.
  • Backyard flock owners will be contacted if a sample needs to be taken. Do not take dead or sick birds to a lab to be tested or move them off-site.
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