Avian Influenza (AI), commonly called bird flu, is an infectious viral disease of birds.
In December 2014 and January 2015, the United States Department of Agriculture reported the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses in wild birds in a few states. Since the beginning of the year, commercial as well as backyard poultry flocks in Arkansas, California, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin have tested positive for the H5N2 strain of avian flu. More cases are being reported almost daily. For up-to-date information on findings, view the list of Current Highly Pathogenic H5 Avian Influenza Outbreaks.
Virginia experienced a large and costly outbreak in 2002, but VDACS and the state’s poultry industry have been vigilant in both prevention techniques and anticipated response since then. After that outbreak Virginia established the Virginia Poultry Disease Task Force that meets quarterly to review the plan for response in the event of an outbreak.
Other preparedness activities include very close scrutiny on imported poultry and poultry products; they may only enter Virginia under special permit if coming from a control area in another state. The state is also prepared to mobilize the Avian Influenza Incident Management Team on short notice.
Key biosecurity advice for poultry owners:
- Keep your distance - Isolate your birds from visitors and other birds, especially waterfowl and shore birds.
- Keep it clean - Prevent germs from spreading by cleaning shoes, tools and equipment. Have designated clothing and footwear that you only wear in your poultry house or farm.
- Don't haul disease home and be sure to clean vehicles and cages whenever traveling.
- Don't borrow disease from your neighbor - Avoid sharing tools and equipment with other bird owners.
- Know the warning signs of infectious bird diseases - Watch for early signs to prevent the spread of disease.
- Always buy from a reliable source - The National Poultry Improvement Program (NPIP) offers voluntary disease certifications, and chicks from a hatchery that have been certified as disease free are less likely to introduce diseases onto your farm.
- Consider testing birds or knowing the flock NPIP status for diseases of concern before adding them to your flock.
- Report sick birds - Report unusual signs of disease or unexpected deaths to VDACS.
- This particular strain of H5N2 does not affect people. As a reminder, the proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 ˚F kills any bacteria and viruses. People should avoid contact with sick/dead poultry or wildlife. If contact occurs, they should wash their hands with soap and water and change clothing before having any contact with healthy domestic poultry and birds.
For more information about biosecurity measures and plans, contact the State Veterinarian’s Office at 804.692.0601 or a local Office of Veterinary Services at the Regional Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory in your area.
September 14, 2015
Virginia Still on High Alert for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza
~ No cases in Virginia, but risk returns with cooler weather, return of migratory birds ~
April 24, 2015
Virginia Has Been Preparing Its Response to Avian Influenza Since 2002
~ No current cases in Virginia, but state urges precautions as nationwide outbreak spreads ~
March 30, 2015
Biosecurity is for the Birds
March 12, 2015
Virginia Needs to Observe Strict Biosecurity in Light of Avian Influenza Outbreaks Elsewhere
~ No cases in Virginia, but state urges precautions ~