By Anne Lichtenwalner, DVM, PhD, University of Maine Extension
Question: As a small flock owner, should I be worried about avian influenza?
Answer: It’s something to have in mind, should you see respiratory disease in birds, but it’s far from the most likely cause. There are several forms of influenza (AI) in birds: relatively non-pathogenic (low path AI; LPAI) and the more dangerous form (high path AI; HPAI). While it’s not common, it doesn’t hurt to review your management to make your birds “safer”; we call this biosecurity.
Question: What is biosecurity?
Answer: For the poultry owner, it’s keeping chickens away from germs and germs away from chickens. Good fencing, clean coops/hen houses, hand washing/boot cleaning before and after handling birds, quarantine for new or re-entering birds to a flock are examples of biosecurity for any flock. We can learn from the recent losses due to AI in Mexico’s poultry industry. Here are some of the things that have been pointed out as potential reasons that they have had multiple outbreaks of AI in the last few years.
Question: How can I find out where this disease is showing up?
Answer: If you would like to see an up-to-date review of AI, go to the CDC site (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/). There have been cases of highly pathogenic AI in Mexico, and most recently (summer 2013) in Italy.
Question: What can I do to protect my birds from AI?
Answer: Great biosecurity is the best protection.
Question: Are there AI vaccines for birds?
Answer: Experimental vaccine of poultry against some types of avian flu has been tried, but was not very effective. There are human vaccines in development for high risk situations.
Question: What about other farm animals — can they get AI?
Answer: In general, flu viruses have a way of “jumping” between certain species: notably humans, birds and pigs. While this is not a common event, it’s still important to be aware of this possibility. For this reason, it’s important to avoid mixing poultry and swine. It’s also very important to isolate sick pigs from poultry or people, and to avoid visiting livestock fairs if you have a cold or the flu.
Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.
Published and distributed in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914, by the University of Maine and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Cooperative Extension and other agencies of the USDA provide equal opportunities in programs and employment.
Call 800.287.0274 or TDD 800.287.8957 (in Maine), or 207.581.3188, for information on publications and program offerings from University of Maine Cooperative Extension, or visit extension.umaine.edu.
The University of Maine does not discriminate on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, including transgender status and gender expression, national origin, citizenship status, age, disability, genetic information or veteran’s status in employment, education, and all other programs and activities. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies: Director, Office of Equal Opportunity, 101 North Stevens Hall, 207.581.1226.
Image Description: Print Friendly
Image Description: free range chickens; photo by Edwin Remsberg