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Facts for the North Carolina Veterinary Practitioner
Submitted by Dennis P. Wages, DVM, Dipl. ACPV
Department of Population Health and Pathobiology, NCSU‐College of Veterinary Medicine
The risk of human infection is low according to Center for Disease Control officials. To date the HPAI strains that have been found in the US have not been detected in humans. Any potential risk of infections in humans is limited to those people in direct contact with diseased poultry.
The poultry food supply is safe. All poultry identified with HPAI are prohibited by federal law from entering the marketplace. No transmission to humans has ever been identified from eating processed poultry products. All confirmed HPAI flocks are depopulated and remain on the farm for disposal. As a reminder, for overall food safety, poultry and eggs should be handled properly and cooked to an internal temperature of 165 F.
The HPAI has no relationship to the canine influenza viruses currently circulating in dogs. The original canine influenza virus H3N8 currently being vaccinated for actually originated in the equine population approximately 40 years ago. The new H3N2 virus occurring in the Midwest originated in Asia in dogs. These canine influenza viruses are different than those affecting poultry.
The US has the most rigorous surveillance in the world. In North Carolina all domestic commercial poultry are tested serologically prior to processing for the detection of any AI virus.
Waterfowl serve as natural reservoirs for AI infection. While this virus can cause severe illness and mortality in domestic poultry, waterfowl usually show little or no clinical signs of infection.
Practitioners should remain vigilant when mortality is occurring in backyard poultry flocks. Any time unexpected mortality is occurring in a back yard flock, those birds should be submitted to a State Diagnostic Lab for testing. Any questions regarding testing can be referred to the office of the State Veterinarian or the Director of Animal Health Programs – Poultry at the Department of Agriculture 919‐707-3250.
Biosecurity plays a major role in the prevention of HPAI in backyard poultry flocks. Practitioners should discourage the co‐mingling of waterfowl, domestic birds and poultry. This virus is spread through droppings and/or nasal discharge from infected or carrier birds. People can carry the virus on shoes, clothes, equipment, and vehicles.
Affected birds may exhibit the following clinical signs: loss of appetite; lack of vocalization; egg production drop; coughing; swollen face; diarrhea; torticolis; paralysis; dark discoloration of comb, wattles and leg shanks. Mortality can be sudden and very high.
Since the local practitioner may play an important role in detecting HPAI in non‐commercial poultry, it is important for the practitioner to be vigilant in identifying any clinical disease that may suggest HPAI in backyard flocks.