MANHATTAN (KSNT) – The Kansas Department of Agriculture is encouraging poultry owners to take additional steps to protect their flocks from avian influenza.

This comes from the KDA’s Division of Animal Health and concerns both commercial and backyard flocks. Owners are being told to monitor their birds for symptoms of avian influenza and by implementing biosecurity practices.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza is an very contagious viral disease that can infect turkeys, chickens and other birds, causing severe illness and/or sudden death. HPAI has been found in backyard flocks as well as commercial operations in neighboring states but it has not been detected in the state of Kansas as of yet.

“Protecting the poultry in the state is a high priority, and we need all poultry owners to be part of the effort to prevent the spread of disease in Kansas,” Animal Health Commissioner Justin Smith said. “Our best defense is to follow strict biosecurity practices and vigilantly monitor birds for any signs of illness.”

To best protect your poultry using biosecurity methods to prevent contamination, the KDA recommends:

  • Prevent contact with wild birds, especially wild waterfowl
  • Restrict unauthorized people and vehicles
  • Cover and enclose outdoor feeding areas, and cover stored feed
  • Clean and disinfect any vehicle tires or equipment that has been on other farms or other locations where there is poultry or wild birds
  • Wear clean clothing, boots and shoes when in contact with your flock
  • Isolate new birds

Symptoms of HPAI can include: coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge and other signs of respiratory distress; lack of energy and appetite’ decreased water consumption; decreased egg production and/or soft-shelled, misshapen eggs; incoordination; and diarrhea. Avian influenza can also bring about sudden death in birds even if they aren’t showing other symptoms.

If you see these symptoms in your birds, the KDA recommends that you reach out to your veterinarian immediately. Contact the KDA at 785-564-6601 if you don’t have access to a veterinarian.

The recent HPAI detections do not present an immediate public health concern according to the Centers for Disease Control. No human cases of these avian influenza viruses have been found in the U.S. Avian influenza does not present a food safety risk: poultry and eggs are safe for consumption when handled and cooked properly.

According to the CDC, bird influenza rarely affects people. Humans can become infected when a bird sheds the virus in its saliva, mucous and/or feces. Humans are often infected when the virus gets into a person’s eyes, nose or mouth, or is inhaled. When human infections are reported, the infections is usually limited, inefficient and not sustained.

Federal and state partners are working together on additional surveillance and testing in areas around the affected flock as part of existing avian influenza response plans. The U.S. has the strongest avian influenza surveillance program in the world according to the KDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is working with its partners to actively look for the disease in commercial poultry operations, live bird markets and in migratory wild bird populations.

For more information on HPAI, go to the KDA’s avian influenza webpage here or call 785-564-6601.