By Yuko Sato and Mohamed El-Gazzar
AMES, Iowa – Avian influenza continues to be confirmed across Iowa and the nation. Here are some common questions and answers from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach that can help inform consumers, bird owners, and poultry producers.
What is avian influenza?
Avian influenza is an infectious virus that affects wild birds and domestic poultry caused by a type A influenza virus in a family of viruses called Orthomyxovirus. There are two groups of viruses based on their ability to cause disease in domestic poultry: low pathogenic avian influenza, which usually causes only mild illness and can be present without showing any signs; and high pathogenic avian influenza, which spreads rapidly causing severe disease and high death rates. Wild birds carry both types of AI and can act as a source of infection to domestic poultry.
What are some signs people should watch out for that would indicate avian influenza?
Since avian influenza is a respiratory virus, it can cause symptoms like coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, and swollen sinuses, but a red flag would be a sudden increase in death rate and especially if you don’t have a good reason for why the bird(s) died. Other signs to look for include diarrhea, neurologic issues like depressed and lethargic birds, huddling birds, drop in feed and water consumption, and drop in egg production.
Are poultry products safe to eat?
HPAI detections in birds do not present an immediate public health concern and poultry products are safe to eat.
How is avian influenza spread?
AI is primarily spread by direct contact between healthy birds and infected birds, and through indirect contact with contaminated equipment and materials, such as boots, clothing, cars, and anything that has contact with infected birds. The virus is shed through infected birds’ feces and secretions from the nose, mouth, and eyes.
If folks suspect they may have avian influenza on their farm or in their backyard flock, what should they do?
If you suspect HPAI you must contact the state veterinarian or USDA before taking any further actions.
- During Office Hours (8 a.m. to 4 p.m.): IDALS Reporting Line: 515-281-5305, USDA Reporting Line: 515-284-4140
- After Hours: Jeff Kaisand: 515-240-6632; Kevin Petersburg: 515-669-6043.
Isolate and quarantine your flock to limit the spread of potential disease.
How can we prevent the spread of foreign diseases, such as avian influenza?
Poultry and small flock owners should strengthen their biosecurity practices to keep the outside out, and keep the inside in. In the event you find dead birds on your farm or your backyard flock, or if you see signs that look like HPAI, don’t wait to call!
Good biosecurity is something we should practice all the time. What does good biosecurity look like?
Good biosecurity needs people to run it and a plan that makes sense to you. It could be anything from limiting foot traffic on your farm, having a change of boots and clothing to chore birds, not borrowing tools and equipment, preventing any contact with wild birds, and making sure to take a shower and wash hands after being exposed to other birds or if you go out hunting.
Where can I go for more information about HPAI?
- HPAI tool kit
- APHIS website
- If you have questions about sampling birds and testing birds for AI, there is a list of trained veterinarians across Iowa that are willing and capable of helping you out.