Vigilance but not panic is being advised for poultry farms and others with poultry in their backyards after a strain of Avian Flu was recently detected in 65 hunter-harvested wild waterfowl at three sites in North Carolina and other nearby states as of Feb. 4. It’s also the reason why the North Carolina Zoo closed its aviary to the public on Jan. 26.
The samples of High Path Avian Influenza came from sites in Hyde County, a site located on the Pamlico/Beaufort County line, in Bladen County, in SC and VA.
While there are no risks to humans, the potential risk to the state’s poultry industry would be devastating, as its economic impact for NC is nearly $40 billion.
“We don’t want it in our commercial birds because it will make them sick,” said Bob Ford, Executive Director for North Carolina Poultry Federation. “Migratory wildfowl, like ducks and geese that migrate, are asymptomatic.” Ford said while Low Path influenza has always been found in wild birds, it’s not as much of a concern as High Path because the birds “get sicker quicker.” He said there has been an H5 Eurasian subtype of the Asian Flu detected in the last year or so in Asia, some parts of Africa, and Europe, where it has caused a lot of problems for commercial birds.
The migratory route is called the East Atlantic Flyway. Birds migrate up the coast of Africa, across Europe, and into Canada and North America. That flyway crosses the Atlantic American Flyway. Ford said an initial cause for concern occurred earlier this year when some of the high path H5 Eurasian strain was found in Newfoundland.
If there is a concern, a sample is sent to a state lab for testing. Any test that is suspicious, will be sent to the National Veterinary Laboratory in Ames, Iowa to determine the type of flu.
People are taking the recent announcement seriously and are sending samples to the lab to be tested. “People who might otherwise ignore it and say this is not a problem are getting their birds to the lab and having them tested as they should do,” said Michael Martin, North Carolina State Veterinarian, NC Dept. of Agriculture.
“These samples represent the Atlantic American Flyway, which means we are making the assumption that these birds can be positive anywhere in our state. This isn’t a coastal problem. It’s a North Carolina problem,” he said. He said currently there aren’t any domesticated birds, commercial or otherwise testing positive. “
Martin said the Dept. of Ag’s website should have updated numbers each Friday.
Ford said the migratory birds usually stay in the area until March or April before traveling on to South America where they go home to nest. Most commercial growers keep their birds inside but if anyone has any that they keep outside, like in a backyard, they are being advised to bring them inside for a while.
The warning signs of HPAI include reduced energy, decreased appetite, and/or decreased activity, lower egg production and/or soft-shelled or misshapen eggs, swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, and wattles, purple discoloration of the wattles, comb, and legs, difficulty breathing, runny nares (nose), and/or sneezing, twisting of the head and neck, stumbling, falling down, tremors and/or circling, and greenish diarrhea
If anyone has concerns, they should report them to their local veterinarian, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Veterinary Division at 919-707-3250, or the N.C. Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System at 919-733-3986.
For more information on avian influenza and protective additional steps you can take, visit www.ncagr.gov/avianflu.