We have gotten numerous emails and letters lately with questions about the Avian Flu, as well as consulting jobs to help prevent it. The following is what we know about the current US Avian Flu outbreak. Firstly, there is no reason to panic. There have been ZERO human cases of Avian Flu. However, you may feel the effects of this outbreak in your wallet when you buy eggs or chicken.
What is the Avian Flu?
Avian flu is a strain of the influenza virus (the same virus we get flu shots for every year) that affects primarily birds. There have been cases of other strains of Avian flu passing to humans. The current strain of Avian Flu affecting birds in the Midwest is HPAI H5N8, which has never been confirmed to pass to humans, meaning no human cases have been reported for this strain anywhere.
However, this strain is very lethal to birds, especially poultry, and to inhibit the spread of the disease, farms have culled whole flocks of millions of birds when they notice birds with the disease among their stock. Most of these birds have been chickens, but turkeys, ducks, and other birds have been culled as well.
How is it transmitted?
Avian Flu is transmitted just like the human flu. Close contact with bodily fluids including aerosolized fluid particles from sneezing and coughing and especially droppings. This is why it can run rampant in farms that have large flocks of poultry. It is likely being moved throughout the country through wild populations of ducks and geese that visit farms and come into contact with farm birds or their water and food source. It can also be transmitted between farms that exchange breeding stock or introduce new birds from other sources.
Do we have to worry?
While there is no need to panic, any strain of Highly Pathogenic Flu should be monitored and steps should be taken to inhibit the spread of the disease to make sure that it doesn’t mutate to a strain that can infect humans. You can rest assured that this strain of Avian Flu is being closely monitored.
There has been a lull in new cases over the summer months. This is primarily due to the “flightless” period for waterfowl (when they molt all of their flight feathers and grow new ones to prepare for migration). They cannot spread the disease if they cannot fly to different sites. The heat of the summer is also hard on the virus, which may have helped to stop new cases. However, the flightless period is now over and as the weather cools we may see more outbreaks of this disease in the coming weeks.
What can you do to help?
Avian flu has been found in backyard chicken flocks. The best thing to do is, first of all, don’t panic, don’t spread unconfirmed rumors, and educate yourself about the outbreak and this particular strain of flu. Next, keep aware of your surroundings and report any sick waterfowl or poultry that you see to the USDA. Helping them keep track of the progression of the disease will help with prevention and care of domestic poultry flocks. Cook all of your poultry and eggs thoroughly. While there are no human cases to date, influenza viruses have a high potential to mutate and precautions should be taken.
We at Wild Goose Chase, Inc. and Migratory Bird Management, LLC will be out there dispersing the flocks to keep the droppings and all associated diseases off of your properties! We are also consulting with poultry farmers nationwide to help them deter wild birds from their flocks and preventing the spread of this disease to their birds!