The recent resurgence of avian influenza – fueled by the return of migratory waterfowl that carry, but are typically not impacted by the virus – is causing significant damage to both commercial poultry and wild bird populations worldwide, while also impacting backyard flocks.
In this episode of Cornell Cooperative Extension’s ‘Extension Out Loud’ podcast, Amy Barkley, Livestock Specialist with Southwest New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops Program, and Nancy Glazier, Small Farms & Livestock Specialist with CCE’s Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops team, discuss the current avian influenza outbreak and its fallout.
As spring migration progresses, practicing sound biosecurity measures is the primary method for reducing the potential for an outbreak. Clean hands and a dedicated pair of boots for the coop are two basic elements of sound biosecurity practice. Removal of any wild bird feeders, for the duration of the migration period, can also mitigate the spread to nearby poultry. While it has been found in some mammals the threat to humans is low, at this point.
While associated by many with poultry flocks, avian influenza reaches far beyond the chicken coop. “We are also seeing with this particular outbreak, a huge number of wild raptors that are affected,” said Barkley. This is likely due to these raptors, as well as corvids such as crows, feeding on the carcasses of wild birds that were carrying the virus.
According to Glazier “avian influenza has been around for a very long time and in normal years… there may be the low pathogenic strains that are around.”
The spread of H5N1 can be rapid and devastating. “When this disease gets itself ramped up in a flock, it'll kill off a flock in about 24 to 48 hours,” said Barkley. Symptoms of an infected flock can include depressed appetite, sneezing, and decreased egg production. When an infected bird is found contacting the Department of Environmental Conservation is the essential first step.
– Paul Treadwell is a distance learning specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension and the host of Extension Out Loud.