The United States Department of Agriculture has confirmed several findings of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in the Pacific flyway since mid-December 2014 and confirmed the first finding in the Mississippi flyway in March 2015. USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service Veterinary Services is preparing for HPAI in the Atlantic flyway and is asking veterinarians to prepare as well.
The first detection of HPAI in commercial poultry was in a turkey flock in California on January 23, 2015. Surveillance for avian influenza is ongoing in commercial poultry operations, live bird markets, and in migratory wild bird populations. USDA considers this finding to be part of the ongoing avian influenza disease incident. There is no immediate public health concern as a result of these detections.
The H5N8 virus originated in Asia and spread rapidly along wild bird migratory pathways during 2014, including the Pacific flyway. In the Pacific flyway, the H5N8 virus has mixed with North American avian influenza viruses, creating new mixed-origin viruses. This is not unexpected. These mixed-origin viruses contain the Asian-origin H5 part of the virus, which is highly pathogenic to poultry. The N parts of these viruses came from North American low pathogenic avian influenza viruses. As migratory bird flyways overlap, future findings of HPAI in the Atlantic flyway are possible. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, and USDA APHIS VS conduct surveillance on commercial operations, on backyard and hobby flocks, and in the live bird marketing system. As of press date, HPAI has not been detected in NC or WV.
USDA has identified two additional HPAI mixed-origin viruses in the Pacific Flyway: the H5N2 virus and new H5N1 virus. The new H5N1 virus is not the same virus as the H5N1 virus found in Asia that has caused some human illness. The new H5N1 virus is not expected to be a human-health risk, but rather to have the same or a lower risk than H5N8. CDC currently states the human health risk from these viruses is low.
Signs of HPAI include sudden unexpected death losses at higher than normal levels (sometimes with no clinical signs), edema/swelling around the eyes, blue/dark colored wattles and combs, decreased egg production, soft shelled and misshapen eggs, nasal discharge, coughing, sneezing, and neurologic signs.
Bird owners are encouraged to step up their biosecurity, preventing contact between their birds and wild birds, and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials, through the State Department of Agricultures:
North Carolina (919) 707-3000 or to USDA APHIS Veterinary Services at (919) 855-7700. For small flocks, this can include deaths of one bird per day for 2 days in a row. Additional information on biosecurity for backyard flocks can be found at healthybirds.aphis.usda.gov
For more information on HPAI in the U.S. visit www.aphis.usda.gov Click on “Animal Health”, then on “Animal Disease Information”, then under “By Disease” click on “Avian Influenza”.