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Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Detected in Sanilac County Backyard Flock

LANSING, MI - Following an investigation by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), the Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory has detected the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in a backyard poultry flock from Sanilac County. This is the first detection in Sanilac County. Even in cold winter temperatures, bird owners still need to actively protect their flocks from HPAI.

“Despite the cold winter temperatures, HPAI can remain viable in the environment and not all wildlife species susceptible to the virus migrate out of the state. Even at this time of year, the risk from HPAI cannot be completely eliminated,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Nora Wineland. “Bird owners must stay vigilant and continue to take every step they can to prevent their flocks from being exposed to the virus. Actively working to ensure the health of Michigan’s domestic birds is still of the utmost importance.”

HPAI is a highly contagious virus that can be spread in various ways from flock to flock, including by wild birds, through contact with infected poultry, by equipment, and on the clothing and shoes of caretakers. To protect other flocks in Michigan, the premises is currently under quarantine, and the birds were depopulated to prevent disease spread. The flock contained approximately 20 birds of mixed species. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the public health risk associated with this avian influenza detection remains low. Also, no birds or bird products infected with HPAI will enter the commercial food chain. As a reminder, people should properly handle and cook all poultry and eggs.

Whether it’s a few backyard birds or a large commercial flock, following a few key steps is fundamental to protect the health and vitality of Michigan’s domestic birds:

Prevent contact between domestic and wild birds by bringing them indoors or ensuring their outdoor area is fully enclosed.
Wash your hands before and after handling birds as well as when moving between different coops.
Disinfecting boots and other gear when moving between coops.
Do not share equipment or other supplies between coops or other farms.
Cleaning and disinfecting equipment and other supplies between uses. If it cannot be disinfected, discard it.
Using well or municipal water as drinking water for birds.
Keep poultry feed secure to ensure there is no contact between the feed/feed ingredients and wild birds or rodents.

MDARD is continuing to work diligently with local, state, and federal partners to quickly respond to reports of sick or dead domestic birds to best mitigate the spread of HPAI and provide outreach.

Reporting Possible Cases

For Domestic Birds

Domestic bird owners and caretakers should watch for multiple sudden deaths in the flock, a drop in egg production, a significant decrease in water consumption, or an increase in sick birds. If avian influenza is suspected in domestic birds, contact MDARD immediately at 800-292-3939 (daytime) or 517-373-0440 (after-hours).

For Wild Birds

If anyone notices what appears to be unusual or unexplained deaths among wild bird populations, please report these cases to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) by:

Using the DNR’s Eyes in the Field app. Choose the “Diseased Wildlife” option among the selections for “Observation Forms.”
Calling the DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory at 517-336-5030.

Stay Up to Date

Subscribe to receive email notifications by visiting MDARD’s website and clicking on the “Avian Influenza” link. After entering a valid email address, subscribers will receive updates and alerts regarding the status of avian influenza in Michigan whenever there are new developments to report. Additional resources can also be found at Michigan.gov/BirdFlu.

More information on avian influenza and how to protect flocks through biosecurity measures can be found on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website.

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Sick domestic bird calls: 800-292-3939 
Media contact: Chelsea Lewis-Parisio, 517-331-1151