CAROLINE COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — Virginia agriculture officials say they have discovered the Commonwealth’s second flock of domesticated birds with avian flu this year.
According to a statement from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) that was shared with WFXR News, the first backyard flock detection of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) of 2022 was in February in Fauquier County.
Then, on Saturday, Aug. 27, VDACS officials say they were notified that approximately 15 birds from a backyard flock of about 100 ducks, geese, and chickens — which were pets, not commercial poultry — had died in the previous 24 hours in Caroline County.
Department staff members reportedly went to the property and collected samples for testing, which gave results consistent with H5N1 HPAI.
Then, since birds in the flock kept dying at a high rate, the birds were depopulated on Sunday, Aug. 28 in order to prevent further spread of the disease, according to VDACS.
“The probable cause of HPAI in this flock is that the owner reported that a sick buzzard came into the enclosure where most of her geese and ducks were house, about four days before her birds started dying,” Dr. Charles C. Broaddus, state veterinarian, said in a statement. “Presumably, the vulture had fed on a dead infected wild waterfowl carcass, and had become infected, before taking refuge in the duck/goose enclosure and spreading it to the domestic birds.”
As of this writing, the department says state and federal partners are working together to conduct additional surveillance and testing in areas around the affected flock.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that avian flu does not pose an immediate public health concern. However, VDACS still urges anyone involved with poultry production to review your biosecurity controls in order to protect your birds’ health.
The following checklist is a general guide to practicing biosecurity for your backyard flock:
— Keep poultry away from wild birds, especially waterfowl and vultures. Put control programs in place for wild birds (including their feces and their feathers), rodents, and insects. Clean and disinfect any poultry equipment before and after use.
— Protect yourself. Don’t kiss or snuggle with your birds. Remember to wash your hands before and after coming into contact with poultry. If you don’t have soap and water, use hand sanitizer.
— Limit access to your birds and property.
— Wear personal protective equipment or clothing and shoes that you only use when caring for your poultry. This includes boot covers or boots that can be disinfected. Change into fresh protective gear between poultry houses or coops. When you’re done, remove and discard your protective gear. If using dedicated clothing and boots, change clothing and clean and disinfect your boots.
— Clean vehicles, tools, poultry supplies and equipment when moving items around your property.
— Always practice good biosecurity. Review the 14 National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP)
— Biosecurity Principles and create a biosecurity plan for your premises.
— Monitor your flock’s health. Know the signs of disease and check your flock daily for any signs of illness. Quarantine sick birds right away.Statement posted on Sept. 1, 2022 on the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Community Services’ website
Virginia poultry owners are asked to report unusual poultry illnesses or deaths to the State Veterinarian’s Office at 804-692-0601 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s toll-free number, 866-536-7593.