VALLEY — Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, HPAI for short, is a deadly virus for domestic birds. It has been detected in wild birds in Colorado in the past few weeks, so we are at risk.
As of Wednesday, April 6, it has not been detected in any domestic flocks in Colorado this year. There was an outbreak of HPAI in Colorado domestic flocks in 2014-2015, which proved deadly.
So far, there is no record of any humans in the United States contracting this disease.
The virus infects wild birds, especially waterfowl. It can kill wild birds, but it is much less deadly to them than it is to domestic poultry. Therefore, wild birds are carriers of the virus and are the primary way in which the virus can be directly transmitted to your flock. Smaller wild birds, comingling with waterfowl, can also transmit the disease to your flock.
The virus is transmitted from bird to bird through feces and saliva.
The most effective way for you to protect your flock is to modify your coop and runs so that no wild birds can mingle with your flock, enter their area, or share feed or watering equipment. At this time, it is highly advised to keep your flock closed, meaning do not bring new domestic birds in. If you have recently brought new birds into your flock, it is advised to separate and quarantine the new birds for 21 days.
The virus can also be transmitted indirectly by humans, simply by stepping on the feces from a wild bird that is a carrier and then walking into your own poultry housing. In this same way, the virus can be transferred by automobiles, tractors, wheelbarrows, and feeding and watering equipment. So be very aware of cleanliness practices.
Cleaning and even sterilizing your boots with bleach prior to entering your facilities is recommended. Keep your feeders and waters clean. Wash your hands well before and after handling birds or equipment. All these preventative measures are called biosecurity.
During the 2014-2015 outbreak, it was determined the initial infections came from direct contact with wild birds, but the spread was caused more by indirect transmission by humans from farm to farm. Because of this, the Colorado Department of Agriculture has passed an emergency rule, effective now through June 30, suspending any events like shows or sales where birds from different flocks would be brought together and comingled. Limit who comes into your pens, and don’t be visiting your neighbor’s flock at this time.
Once the virus is transmitted into a domestic flock and the birds begin to show any signs of sickness, it progresses rapidly and is fatal, with 90%-100% of the birds dying within 24 to 48 hours. There is no treatment and there is no vaccine. The only way to protect your flock is through preventative biosecurity measures.
This is a reportable disease. This means if you have sick or dying birds, you are to call your veterinarian or the Colorado Department of Agriculture immediately. If you notice your birds going off feed or water, having difficulty breathing, swollen eyes, having diarrhea, having tremors, or twisted neck, call your veterinarian or the CDA immediately so your flock can be properly diagnosed. Be proactive. This is not only about trying to save your own flock, this is about everyone doing their part to control the disease from spreading.
If you suspect your flock may be affected, call your veterinarian, the CDA State Veterinarian at 303-869-9130, or the CSU Avian Health Team at 970-297-4008. If you see three or more wild birds sick or dead in a two-week period, call the Colorado Parks and Wildlife office.
For more detailed information on the disease, reporting, and biosecurity measures, go to https://ag.colorado.gov/press-release/cdas-emergency-rule-temporarily-suspends-all-colorado-poultry-events.