Archived Outdoors

Bird flu detected in Wake County

A backyard chicken flock in Wake County has tested positive for High Path Avian Influenza, marking the disease’s return to North Carolina two months after the state achieved HPAI-free status. 

The flock, containing fewer than 100 birds, was culled to prevent spread of the disease. Other backyard flocks near the infected one will be contacted as part of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service’s ongoing surveillance. Earlier this year, the disease was found at nine poultry farms in Johnston and Wayne counties, but this is the first confirmed positive in a backyard flock. 

The detection is unfortunate, but not surprising, said State Veterinarian Mike Martin — the department had previously gathered evidence that the virus remained in North Carolina’s resident population of wild birds and in migratory waterfowl. 

“Because we know this virus is in our resident wild birds and migratory birds, the threat of high path avian influenza is statewide and likely will remain so through the fall and winter,” he said. “This virus continues to put our poultry population at high risk. This latest HPAI positive flock reinforces the need to be extra vigilant.”

Commercial operators and backyard flock owners alike should follow strict biosecurity measures, including keeping birds enclosed without access to wild birds or other domestic flocks. 

Warning signs of HPAI include lethargy; decreased appetite; lower egg production or soft-shelled and mishappen eggs; swelling of the head, eyelids, comb and wattles; purple discoloration of the wattles, comb and legs; difficulty breathing, runny nose and sneezing; twisting of the head and neck, stumbling, falling down, tremors and circling; and greenish diarrhea. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, HPAI is low risk to people and not a food safety threat, but it is highly contagious among birds. Report sick or dying birds to your local veterinarian or to the NCDACS Veterinary Division at 919.707.3250. Learn more at ncagr.gov/avianflu. For questions about HPAI and wild birds, visit ncwildlife.org.

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