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What is avian influenza?
- Avian influenza is caused by a virus infecting wild birds and waterfowl as well as domestic poultry, such as chickens, turkeys, quail and geese.
- Wild birds commonly have AI and sometimes spread it to domestic birds through direct or indirect transmission.
- Ducks are considered carriers.
What is highly pathogenic avian influenza?Avian influenza viruses are classified as either high or low pathogenicity – the potential ability to produce disease – based on how sick the virus makes domestic birds. HPAI viruses are extremely contagious and cause high death loss in poultry flocks.
What types of wildlife can be infected with AI and how do they get it?
- AI viruses have been found in many bird species but are most often found in migratory waterfowl (ducks, geese and swans).
- Other wild birds known to be capable of harboring influenza viruses include shorebirds, gulls, quail, hawks, falcons and pheasants.
- The virus is shed in fecal droppings, mucus, saliva and nasal discharge.
- In this current HPAI outbreak (Eurasian virus strain H5N1), bald eagles, terns, gulls and cormorants have been particularly affected and large mortality events have been documented throughout North America, including Michigan and the Great Lakes region.
What are the signs of a sick domestic or wild bird with HPAI?
- Sick birds may experience:
- Sudden death
- Significant drop in water consumption
- Abnormal behavior like difficulty walking swimming or flying
- Abnormal head position or wobble
- Seizures, circling or tremors
- Lack of appetite, energy or vocalization
- Drop in egg production
- Swollen comb, wattles, legs or head
- Nasal discharge, sneezing or coughing
- Wild birds can be infected with HPAI and show no clinical signs.
- Sick birds may experience:
How is HPAI spread?
- HPAI is spread through fecal dropping or nasal discharge of an infected bird, which contaminates dust and soil.
- People can carry the virus on their shoes, clothes, equipment and vehicles.
Does it affect mammals
- Between April 1 and July 21, 2022, HPAI virus infection was detected in a total of 63 wild mammals in 10 states in the continental United States: Alaska, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, New York, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.
- In Michigan, we detected HPAI in 16 wild mammals during this time span, including 13 red fox kits, one coyote pup, one adult gray fox and one adult raccoon.
- Ingestion of birds infected with HPAI is presumed to be the most likely source of infection in wild mammals.
Does it affect people?
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the public health risk associated with HPAI to be extremely low. However, the CDC advises people to avoid handling any sick or dead wild birds.
- In the current North America HPAI outbreak, there has been a single human case in Colorado in April 2022. This person had direct exposure to poultry and was involved in the culling (depopulating) of poultry with H5N1. The patient reported fatigue for a few days as their only symptom and has since recovered. This case does not change the human risk assessment for the general public, which is low. However, people who have job-related or recreational exposures to infected birds are at higher risk of infection and should take appropriate precautions outlined in CDC guidance.
- As a reminder, all harvested waterfowl, poultry and eggs should be handled properly. This includes cooking to an internal temperature of 165° F and washing your hands after handling.
What is being done at the state level to prevent and stop the spread of HPAI?
- The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development continues to work with state and federal partners, veterinarians, Michigan State University Extension, MSU’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and industry stakeholders to provide information to poultry farmers and backyard flock owners about the current disease situation, importance of following (and even increasing) their biosecurity measures, and what signs to look for in their birds.
- MDARD continues to take swift action in response to this disease and is closely monitoring and responding to reports of sick domestic birds and HPAI throughout the state.
- The DNR has taken immediate steps, outlined later in this document, to address the disease in wild bird populations.
What steps can I take to protect my flock?
- See MDARD’s website for more information including biosecurity measures.
- If you have backyard poultry, increase your biosecurity practices. This includes limiting the exposure to wild birds and restricting outdoor access to your flock.
- It’s imperative that farmers and producers follow strict biosecurity practices to protect their flocks. Domestic poultry raised outdoors have a much greater risk of being exposed to diseases like avian influenza because they are more likely to interact with wild birds/poultry which could carry the disease.
- Some biosecurity practices include, but are not limited to:
- Disinfecting tools and washing hands when going in between coops
- Not sharing equipment with other farmers or in between coops
- Washing and disinfecting equipment between uses
- Disinfecting boots and other gear when moving in between coops
- Using well or municipal water as drinking water for birds
- Keeping poultry feed secure so that there is no contact between feed/feed ingredients and wild birds or rodents
- Preventing contact between wild birds and domestic birds
Can I use backyard wild bird feeders?
- Removal of bird feeders is not mandatory – and songbirds are generally a lower risk group – but the more that can be done to discourage the artificial aggregation of birds during this outbreak, the better.
- It is recommended that birds feeders be taken down during fall migrations out of an abundance of caution.
- Regularly cleaning bird feeders with a 10% bleach to water solution is always a good practice to avoid transmission of HPAI and other diseases more commonly spread at bird feeders.
Who should I contact if I find sick or dead birds?
- If you notice the death of six or more wild birds, file a report by:
- Using the DNR’s Eyes in Field reporting form
- Calling the DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory at 517-336-5030
- If you notice the death of six or more wild birds, file a report by:
Where were HPAI-diagnosed wild birds located?
- HPAI has been detected in wild birds throughout the state, in both the Lower and Upper peninsulas. This virus is considered widespread in wild birds in Michigan and throughout North America.
How has the DNR been monitoring for AI?
- In 2006, the DNR created a Michigan Surveillance and Response Plan for HPAI in wildlife. The plan, updated in 2022, will guide DNR management of wildlife populations. In addition, the DNR continues to examine the carcasses from mortality events affecting wild birds.
How will the confirmation of HPAI H5N1 affect the DNR’s response?
- The DNR is taking action with the goals of mitigating the spread of AI in wildlife populations and preventing the transmission of the disease to domestic poultry operations.
- Guided by the updated Michigan Surveillance and Response Plan, the DNR canceled the roundup and relocation of nuisance Canada geese for the year, approving limited exceptions in situations where there are elevated human health and safety concerns. Relocation of Canada geese has the risk of transporting HPAI around the state and facilitating the spread of the virus. With the cancellation of those roundup and relocation efforts, the DNR encouraged nest and egg destruction to resolve conflicts and waived eligibility requirements for 2022.
Why isn’t the DNR testing all sick and dead birds for HPAI?
- The DNR performed extensive sampling and surveillance of dead wild birds this spring. This provided an important baseline knowledge that HPAI is widespread in wild bird populations throughout the state, including all watersheds in both the Upper and Lower peninsulas.
- Federal and state agencies throughout the U.S. have also conducted surveillance activities and documented the virus in thousands of wild birds, providing further evidence that this viral strain is widespread.
- Testing every sick or dead bird would require tremendous resources that are currently not available.
- The DNR continues to partner with other agencies such as USDA Wildlife Services, which is performing surveillance this fall by testing hunter-harvested waterfowl.
- The DNR is focusing its fall surveillance efforts by prioritizing the testing of dead birds from die-offs that include at least six birds, as well as bald eagles and wild mammals.
How does HPAI affect waterfowl and/or goose hunters?
- The hunting seasons will continue as usual.
- Hunters should avoid harvesting or handling wild birds that are obviously sick or found dead. Hunters who do have contact with obviously sick or dead birds, or surfaces contaminated by them, should monitor themselves for flu-like symptoms for 10 days after their last exposure and report any symptoms to their state or local health department.
- Waterfowl hunters are encouraged to take the following biosecurity and health precautions when handling wild birds:
- Wash and disinfect hands when leaving the hunting site.
- Wash and disinfect hunting equipment between uses.
- Disinfect boots and other hunting wear.
- Dress game birds in the field whenever possible. If you cannot dress birds in the field, clean them in a location away from poultry and other birds.
- Remove and discard intestines soon after harvesting and avoid direct contact with intestinal contents and fresh fecal material.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth when handling wild birds.
- Wear rubber or disposable gloves while handling and cleaning game, wash hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand cleanser even if the hands are not visibly soiled.
- Thoroughly clean knives, equipment and surfaces that come in contact with game.
- Do not eat, drink, smoke or vape while handling or cleaning birds.
- Cook all meat to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Is my hunting dog at risk
- The risk of hunting dogs acquiring HPAI is likely low since they are not consuming the bird, but there is the possibility of exposure to the virus when dogs are mouthing or biting the bird.
- Canine susceptibility to the current strains of HPAI in the U.S. is unknown.
- To date, there have not been any cases of dogs acquiring this strain of virus in the U.S. but in 2004 there was a fatal infection in a dog in Thailand that became infected after eating the carcass of an infected duck during an HPAI outbreak (this was a different strain than the virus involved in the current outbreak).
- More detailed information on dogs and cats is available at: Avian influenza: Veterinarians | American Veterinary Medical Association
- If hunters want to share waterfowl meat with their dog, the meat must be cooked thoroughly to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, following the same recommendations we have in place for human health.
Will this affect Michigan’s waterfowl and raptor populations?
- We don't anticipate any serious impacts to Michigan’s duck, goose or swan populations. The populations immediately near the sites with the positive test results could see a decline, but there should not be impacts to the statewide population.
- This HPAI outbreak has resulted in numerous mortality events in bald eagles and colony nesting birds like terns and cormorants. It is too early to determine whether this outbreak will result in population-level impacts, but research is ongoing.
What simple steps can I take to minimize exposure?
- You should not directly handle any wild birds. Additionally, kids should not play with wild birds, especially those that are obviously sick or dead, but even apparently healthy wild birds since they may be carriers of HPAI.
- Don’t feed wild birds at parks to avoid congregating large numbers of birds.
- Avoid areas with high levels of bird feces, saliva or mucus because these secretions can contain HPAI virus.
Should wild birds be culled to limit the spread of HPAI
- Culling wild birds is not an effective management strategy to limit the spread of HPAI in wild birds. Depopulation (or culling) of domestic poultry operations is a different strategy because the goal is virus elimination and complete disinfection of the infected premises. This is not possible with wildlife.