March 15, 2017 – Avian Influenza Interview with Dr. Joseph Hess

Avian influenza is a respiratory virus
in birds very similar to to influenza in people. So I mean, it’s the same sort of
thing in birds. Something that travels very quickly between different birds in
the respiratory system. So it’s very similar to influenza in people. Avian
influenza however is a bird issue in the United States, and the way we raise
poultry in the United States minimizes any any potential issues between people
and birds. We do not have sick birds go into the food supply so there is no
issue with avian influenza as a health issue for people in terms of eating
chicken or eggs. Avian influenza is spread by waterfowl that have contracted
it in mixing with birds from Asia. So as they move north now towards their summer grounds in the Arctic, they’re potentially spreading avian influenza as
they go. So it is transmitted either through the feces of the ducks, for
instance as they’re flying, or it can be transmitted bird to bird just as any
other respiratory disease. We can get initial avian influenza flocks from
waterfowl flying over, but much of the problem from there stems from the
disease being spread from farm to farm or from small flock to small flock by
people and other animals. So isolating birds with biosecurity reduces the risk
of avian influenza spreads. So that is one of the main ways we have to keep
avian influenza from spreading. From a biosecurity standpoint, we normally
suggest that people wear separate clothes and separate boots to visit
their poultry particularly if they have other friends that have poultry or they
live in an area with a lot of commercial poultry, so that they do not bring things
into their flock. Most people will have a boot bath too so that they can dip their
boots into a cleaning solution as they go in
and out of their coop. You want to keep your coop closed, with netting over
the top to keep birds and mice and things like that out. Also normally, we
suggest limiting visitors particularly if they’re visitors that either have
poultry or have pet birds like parakeets, cockatiels, and things like that, because
you can spread disease that way. Under the current circumstances where we have
a worry of avian influenza, I would not allow visitors at all for the time being.
Also, it’s not a time to be taking part in poultry shows or poultry swap
meets or things like that. The state has put a stop movement of poultry on at
this time so that all poultry shows will be canceled. When chickens and other
poultry get sick they tend to mope around with their shoulders hunched and
their head between their shoulders and their eyes closed. Chickens have feathers
so it’s a little more difficult to tell when they’re sick than it is with other
animals, but you can tell by their body language. And as with a lot of
respiratory diseases if they’re having trouble breathing and that sort of thing
that’s an indication that they have a respiratory disease of some sort and
should check with the state to see what the problem is. If backyard flock owners
have some mortality the birds will die from time to time but if their chickens
are obviously sick and several birds have died they should take several birds
to the state and call the state Commissioner of Ag in Industries office
and have those birds looked at to make sure they’re not avian influenza
problems. In Alabama we have four state diagnostic labs that are regionally
located so that people can have their birds checked if they have a disease
problem. Those labs are in Boaz, Hanceville, Auburn, and Elba. And you can take a few sick birds to those labs, have them tested for
a range of poultry diseases, and they will test to see if it is avian
influenza. There’s a small charge, but if you are trying to decide what type of
disease your birds have and what to do about it it’s worth the money and effort.

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