Several Vermont state agencies are asking residents to be on the alert for highly pathogenic avian influenza — or bird flu — after the virus was detected in several areas of North America.
As of Feb. 15, the virus has not been reported in Vermont. The closest reported detection was in a flock of wild ducks in New Hampshire, according to a news release from Vermont’s Agency of Agriculture. Other reported detection has occurred in Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia and Canada.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider the risk of the virus to humans to be low. But, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and Vermont Fish and Wildlife is offering guidance for residents who either own domestic poultry or hunt birds.
What to know if you own domestic birds
The highly pathogenic avian influenza is typically fatal for birds that are owned and raised domestically, according to the news release. The virus is often introduced to domestic birds by infected wild birds through contact with their droppings, and then may spread among poultry flocks because of poor biosecurity or unfavorable environmental conditions.
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Conditions for bird flu risk to poultry
Infected poultry does not constitute a food safety risk for humans, the news release said. But, domestic poultry may be at a greater risk to bird flu if any of the following conditions exist:
- Poultry is housed outside.
- There are ponds or other wild bird attractions on the farm.
- Piles of debris are located close to poultry areas.
- Poultry from other farms are introduced to flocks without a quarantine period.
- Farmers lack personal protective equipment, such as dedicated coveralls and boots.
- Equipment is shared between farms.
- There is unrestricted human movement and interaction with poultry.
Review biosecurity activities
“Anyone involved with poultry production, from the small backyard coop to the large commercial producer, should review their biosecurity activities to ensure the health of their birds, restrict human movement onto the farm and limit contact with poultry to only those who need to be there,” news release stated.
Keeping flocks safe
Tips for keeping domestic flocks safe can be found on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website, aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/animal-disease-information/avian.
What to know if you hunt wild birds
Vermonters who hunt waterfowl should keep the following tips in mind, according to the USDA:
- Do not handle or harvest wild birds that are obviously sick or found dead.
- Wash hands with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer, immediately after handling game.
- Always wear disposable gloves when handling or cleaning game.
- Use dedicated cleaning tools for dressing game, and clean game away from domestic bird flocks.
- Do not eat or drink anything or put anything in your mouth when handling or cleaning game.
- Keep cooked game separate from uncooked game to prevent cross-contamination.
- Cook wild birds thoroughly, to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees, to kill disease organisms and parasites.
More information for hunters
More tips for hunters can be found at aphis.usda.gov/publications/animal_health/2015/fsc_hpai_hunters.pdf.