Avian Influenza Identified in Tuscola County

Poultry owners and caretakers should watch for unusual deaths, drops in egg production and a significant decrease in water consumption, according to the Tuscola County Health Department.

Tuscola County is the most recent Michigan county with a confirmed case of the highly pathogenic avian influenza which has been spreading rapidly across the state and country.

“The first case of the HPAI has been confirmed in a tundra swan in Tuscola County,” a Tuscola County Health Department press release reads.

The health department issued an advisory to warn people who work or own birds, including poultry, to be alert and take necessary precautions to avoid possible infection.

Avian influenza is spread in a variety of ways from bird to bird and flock to flock, impacting both wildfowl and poultry, along with domesticated birds. The Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development website states symptoms of birds with avian influenza, sometimes abbreviated HPAI, can include:

  • Sudden death
  • Significant drop in water consumption
  • Lack of appetite, energy, or vocalization
  • Drop in egg production
  • Diarrhea
  • Swollen comb, wattles, legs or head
  • Nasal discharge, sneezing, or coughing
  • Abnormal behavior like difficulty walking

According to the health department, the confirmation of the infected bird is the latest in a series across the state, with detection in either backyard birds or wild birds.

“To date, these include Bay, Clinton, Crawford, Gladwin, Hillsdale, Kalamazoo, Kent, Livingston, Macomb, Menominee, Monroe, Oakland, Otsego, Saginaw, Shiawassee, St. Clair, Tuscola and Washtenaw counties,” the release read. “As migrating birds return to Michigan and other parts of the U.S., it is likely that many more detections of HPAI will occur. It has been detected in at least 27 states.”

There have been scattered reports across social media of people finding dead birds. Michigan Department of Natural Resources is asking people to avoid dead birds and instead report them on the DNR’s website at https://tinyurl.com/2p89m225 or by calling the DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory at 517-336-5030. The reporting asks for general reporting information such as the reporter’s name and contact information, where the bird or mammal was located, along with other information such as the health of the animal, and how many are involved.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is rare for avian influenza to spread to humans. There have been sporadic reports in Asia, Europe and the Middle East since 2003.

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“Most human infections with avian influenza viruses, including HPAI Asian H5N1 viruses, have occurred after prolonged and close contact with infected birds,” the CDC report reads. “Rare human-to-human spread with this virus has occurred, but it has not been sustained and no community spread of this virus has ever been identified.”

State Veterinarian Dr. Nora Wineland previously said that although it is difficult for pet birds to catch avian influenza, steps should still be taken to protect all birds.

A few steps the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development recommended were:

  • Prevent contact between domestic and wild birds by bringing them indoors or ensuring their outdoor area is fully enclosed.
  • Wash your hands before and after handling birds as well as when moving between different coops.
  • Disinfecting boots and other gear when moving between coops.
  • Do not share equipment or other supplies between coops or other farms.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting equipment and other supplies between uses. If it cannot be disinfected, discard it.
  • Using well or municipal water as drinking water for birds.
  • Keep poultry feed secure to ensure there is no contact between the feed/feed ingredients and wild birds or rodents.

The DNR is encouraging homeowners to temporarily remove bird feeders to reduce the spread of the bird flu.

 

“One easy way the public can help reduce the potential spread of HPAI is to remove outdoor bird feeders,” a DNR press release read. “Though there isn’t yet any widespread recommendation from state agencies to do so, temporary removal of these food sources could be helpful, especially for anyone who has highly susceptible species — domestic poultry, raptors or waterfowl — living nearby. Similarly, removal could be a wise choice for those who observe high-risk species like blue jays, crows or ravens hanging around backyard bird feeders. This temporary removal of bird feeders and baths may only last for the next couple months, or until the rate of HPAI spread in wild and domestic birds decreases.”

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If people choose to continue using their bird feeders, please keep this guidance in mind:

  • Thoroughly clean bird feeders with a diluted bleach solution (and rinse well) once per week. Regularly cleaning helps protect birds against other infections, including salmonella.
  • Clean up birdseed that has fallen below the feeders to discourage large numbers of birds and other wildlife from congregating in a concentrated area.
  • Don’t feed wild birds, especially waterfowl, near domestic flocks.