Nearly 48,000 birds were killed at a north Alabama chicken farm after state agriculture officials confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic avian flu there.
The commercial pullet farm in Marshall County has been quarantined after samples from the flock were confirmed positive for HPAI, the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries announced on Friday.
While considered low risk to humans, HPAI is highly contagious to birds, including commercial and backyard flocks of poultry, the agency said.
The virus is also not considered a threat to food safety because infected birds do not enter the good supply, according to the department.
All poultry within a 10-kilometer radius — or 6.2 miles — of the farm are being tested and monitored.
However, no other flocks have experienced an uptick in deaths.
“It is critical for commercial and backyard poultry operations to remain alert and closely monitor the health of their poultry,” said Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Rick Pate and State Veterinarian Tony Frazier in a joint statement. “The HPAI infected flock in Marshall County reinforces the need to continue following strict biosecurity measures, including keeping birds enclosed without access to wild birds or other domestic flocks.”
The presence of the virus in Marshall County comes a week after HPAI was confirmed in an upland gamebird farm in Chilton County. All poultry there — nearly 296,500 birds — were affected and all will be killed by the end of the week, the department said.
It was not immediately clear if the cases at both farms were connected.
Federal and state officials are working on additional surveillance and testing in areas around the affected flocks, according to the agency, pointing out that the United States has the strongest avian flu surveillance program in the world.
The agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are monitoring for the disease in commercial poultry farms, backyard flocks, live bird markets and wild bird populations.
HPAI symptoms in birds include:
- Sudden increase in bird deaths in your flock
- Sneezing, gasping for air, coughing and nasal discharge
- Watery and green diarrhea
- Lack of energy and poor appetite
- Drop in egg production or soft or thin-shelled, misshaped eggs
- Swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles, and hocks
- Purple discoloration of the wattles, comb and legs
- Ruffled feathers, listlessness and lethargy
The department urged the commercial poultry industry and backyard flock owners to increase biosecurity measures to protect their operations from HPAI.
Such measures can include:
- Cleaning vehicles and equipment
- Limiting unnecessary visitors
- Sanitizing shoes in clean foot baths
- Changing clothes upon contact with birds and more.
Sick or dead wild birds should be reported to the Alabama Department of Natural Resources and Conservation at 334-242-3469.
Sick or dead domestic birds and poultry should be reporting to the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries’ Poultry Unit at 334-240-6584.
More information about HPAI or detections can be found here.