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MDARD Encourages Bird Owners to Continue Protecting Their Flocks from HPAI as Wild Birds Begin to Migrate

By Jennifer Holton

Vigilance is still needed as HPAI continues to be detected in the United States

LANSING, MI While the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) has not reported any new cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in domestic poultry flocks since March 2023, MDARD continues to receive and investigate calls regarding sick domestic birds, and the virus is still being detected across the nation. These detections coupled with the fall migration of wild birds means it is necessary to continue following precautionary measures to protect domestic flocks and keep birds healthy.

While the rate of HPAI detections have decreased in Michigan and the United States, this does not mean the threat posed by the virus has been eliminated. As the disease continues to circulate in wild birds, their fall migration can cause the virus to spread once again, said State Veterinarian Nora Wineland, DVM. It is just as important now as it was at the start of the outbreak for bird owners to take every step they can to protect their birds from being exposed to wild birds and their germs.

HPAI is a highly contagious virus that can be spread in various ways from flock to flock, including through wild birds, contact with infected poultry, by equipment, and on the clothing and shoes of caretakers.

Since late February 2022, MDARD received over 260 calls about possible cases of HPAI, which resulted in 81 investigations. These investigations led to the detection of 24 cases of the disease in domestic birds, 20 involved non-commercial backyard flocks, three cases occurred in hunting preserves, and one case was in a commercial flock. These cases were found in 15 counties across the Upper and Lower Peninsulas.

Even though Michigan has gone over four months without a new detection of the disease in domestic birds, this trend is part of a broader pattern that was seen last year namely, cases are noted early in the year when the spring migration of wild birds starts, there is a lull throughout the summer months, and cases increase in the fall when wild birds migrate once again.

Fortunately, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the public health risk associated with this disease remains low. In addition, no birds or bird products infected with HPAI will enter the commercial food chain. As a reminder, people should properly handle and cook all poultry and eggs.

Whether it s a few backyard birds or a large commercial flock, following a few key steps is still fundamental to protect the health and vitality of Michigan s domestic birds:

  • Prevent contact between domestic and wild birds by bringing them indoors or ensuring their outdoor area is fully enclosed.
  • Wash your hands before and after handling birds as well as when moving between different coops.
  • Disinfect boots and other gear when moving between coops.
  • Do not share equipment or other supplies between coops or other farms.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting equipment and other supplies between uses. If it cannot be disinfected, discard it.
  • Use well or municipal water as drinking water for birds.
  • Keep poultry feed secure to ensure there is no contact between the feed/feed ingredients and wild birds or rodents.

MDARD will continue to receive and respond to reports of sick or dead domestic birds in Michigan, share information with other state and federal agencies, and monitor national HPAI trends.

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