State veterinarian discusses recent HPAI detections in Wyoming
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is rapidly spreading through commercial, domestic and wildlife flocks across the U.S. since its initial detection in February, and the flu has made its way into Wyoming.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Highly pathogenic avian influenza occurs mainly in birds, is highly contagious among birds and can be deadly, especially in domestic poultry.”
Wyoming State Veterinarian Dr. Hallie Hasel warns poultry producers of the flu, saying, “The strain of HPAI this year is highly fatal, often causing death loss of an entire flock within 48 hours.”
On March 29, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported the first HPAI case in Wyoming – detected in a non-commercial mixed-species backyard flock (non-poultry) in Johnson County. The flu has since spread to other backyard flocks, and recently, wildlife flocks.
According to USDA, as of April 13, 270 backyard mixed species birds have tested positive for HPAI in Wyoming. These cases have been documented in Park, Sheridan, Fremont and Johnson counties.
On April 11, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) announced two great horned owls from Park County, one Canadian goose from Big Horn County and two Canadian geese from Fremont County tested positive for HPAI. Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory identified the virus, and the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa confirmed it.
As migratory waterbirds fly north this spring, there is concern these birds may bring HPAI with them and infect birds they come into contact with along the way.
Hasel notes producers raising poultry near bodies of water frequently visited by waterfowl are at a higher risk of contaminating their flock with HPAI.
“HPAI is typically spread by migrating waterfowl, who seldom display signs of disease,” Hasel says. “Poultry, including domestic waterfowl, should not come into contact with wild waterfowl.”
According to USDA, “Wild birds can be infected with HPAI and show no signs of illness. They can carry the disease to new areas when migrating, potentially exposing domestic poultry to the virus.”
If birds do show signs of HPAI, they will typically include “sudden death; lack of energy, appetite and coordination; purple discoloration or swelling of various body parts; diarrhea; nasal discharge; coughing; sneezing; and reduced egg production or soft-shelled or misshapen eggs,” according to the CDC.
WGFD is asking the public to report groups of dead birds to the nearest WGFD Regional Office.
“Anyone who finds clusters of three or more dead wild birds – waterfowl, grouse, turkeys and raptors – please contact your regional office,” says Hank Edwards, Wildlife Health Laboratory supervisor.
WGFD reminds people not to touch birds they think may be contaminated with HPAI, saying, “HPAI is considered a zoonotic disease, which can infect humans. WGFD reminds the public to not touch or handle sick or dead birds, and do not allow domestic animals like dogs and cats to feed on sick or dead birds.”
The Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) proposed Chapter 26 “HPAI Mitigation Rules” to increase biosecurity in Wyoming.
The rule states, “For the duration of these emergency rules, all poultry events, including exhibitions, swaps, tours, sales and competitions are prohibited. This prohibition does not include catalog or retail sale of poultry. The WLSB, in consultation with the state veterinarian, will monitor the spread of severity of the HPAI outbreak and will reevaluate these rules accordingly.”
The rule has not been signed by the governor yet, and the rule will not go into effect until signed.
“The emergency rule will help Wyoming decrease the spread of disease by prohibiting the commingling of poultry during the high risk period of bird migration,” says Hasel. “Our neighboring states have also suffered significant poultry loss, and we hope to support their HPAI mitigation efforts as well.”
WLSB will reevaluate the rule in late May and issue further information at that time, notes Hasel. WLSB, in collaboration with a few other state agencies, will be offering an HPAI webinar for the public towards the end of April.
Hasel encourages producers who notice sudden death loss in their poultry to immediately contact their local veterinarian, WLSB at 307-777-8720 or 307-777-6440 or the USDA at 866-536-7593. She encourages producers to take necessary precautionary measures to keep their flocks safe.
“Due to the spread of HPAI across the U.S., biosecurity for our backyard poultry flocks is of the utmost importance,” Hasel says.
Kaitlyn Root is an editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.