What Is Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza?

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Photo by Ken Martin

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has been in the news a lot lately, and for those outside of the poultry industry, it may not be well known.

As the name implies, this virus spreads quickly and can be detrimental to commercial and backyard poultry flocks. HPAI has a higher mortality rate, 95%, than Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI), which still has a 75% mortality rate.

In January, a northern shoveler duck tested positive for HPAI in Hyde County, North Carolina. Now 65 wild birds have tested positive in four eastern NC counties. Migratory birds such as ducks, geese, and swans are known carriers of this virus, but they do not show symptoms like domestic fowl. So how can you protect your flock?

The best prevention method for any poultry disease is a good biosecurity plan. Biosecurity is an animal husbandry practice that protects your animals from introduced diseases. Limiting access to your birds from outside animals and people can reduce the risk of disease entering your flocks. Do not wear the same clothes you wear bird hunting to take care of your poultry flocks. The virus can shed from the wild birds onto your clothing and you could inadvertently introduce it to your flock.

Since there are no cases of commercial or backyard flocks, all 4-H poultry programs will continue as scheduled.