November 30, 2022

Extension Notebook: Protecting your flock from HPAI infection

By Ken Koelkebeck

Back in the April 2022 edition of AgriNews, I reported about the problems associated with avian influenza. Back then, the first infection was detected in a turkey flock in Indiana. Since that time, there have been a huge number of poultry operations, both commercial and backyard flocks, that have contracted highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). As I mentioned, any birds infected with HPAI must be euthanized and depopulated. The cost to poultry producers is expensive and it takes time to repopulate those birds.

As mentioned in April, the nation’s poultry industry, both commercial and small flock and backyard flocks, are being affected by this virus. As of Oct. 19, 542 flocks have been infected. Of that number, 243 commercial flocks and 299 backyard flocks have been infected. The total number of birds to be infected has been 47.6 million. Poultry in 42 states have been infected. So, the threat of your birds becoming infected has not gone away. As recently as Oct. 19, 35,000 birds at an upland game bird farm in Nebraska were diagnosed to be infected with HPAI.

HPAI is a virus disease that is very deadly to domestic poultry. The virus is carried and transmitted mainly by migratory waterfowl. These birds spend the winter in South America, where they co-mingle and then migrate back to northern Canada and Alaska in the spring. This year, the virus was present in these birds when they migrated back north and along the way they deposited the virus when they were migrating. If the virus gets inside a commercial small flock, or backyard flock of poultry, those birds will become infected. The only way to control these virus infections is to depopulate the birds affected as well as every bird in the flock or on the premises. In Illinois, there have only been two small flocks diagnosed with HPAI.

As mentioned in April, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has published a good resource that provides information about protecting your flock from HPAI and other diseases. The website is https://tinyurl.com/sdprfk89.

We are hopeful that the threat of HPAI will subside, once all migratory waterfowl have completed their migration to South America. However, the real question is will the threat of HPAI re-emerge this next spring? Only time will tell.

Ken Koelkebeck, Ph.D., is a Poultry Extension Specialist, Department of Animal Sciences, University of Illinois