It is mid-August already and fall is quickly approaching. Fall brings many exciting changes and wonderful events; however, fall is also a time to be aware of the biosecurity and health of commercial and backyard flocks of chickens and other poultry. Migrating birds that pass through Maryland, in the fall, can carry strains of the contagious avian influenza (bird flu), including highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), and infect domestic birds through direct contact and contact with contaminated materials.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza is characterized by symptoms including but not limited to: sudden death, gasping, nasal discharge, diarrhea, purple discoloration of the legs, waddles, or combs, swelling around the eyes and neck, poor egg production, and lack of energy. Highly pathogenic avian influenza can decimate an entire flock in a few days; there are no confirmed cases of Avian Influenza in Maryland to date. However, preventative measures should be taken to product all flocks of poultry throughout Maryland.
There are some simple steps that can be taken to increase a farm’s biosecurity and aid in the protection of the flock:
For more information on avian influenza and how to protect your poultry please visit the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) at http://mda.maryland.gov/Pages/default.aspx. If a flock suffers a sudden number of deaths or for any reason there is suspicion that the poultry has become infected you must call the MDA and report the case immediately! Also, a reminder that after August 25th poultry exhibits will be prohibited at all Maryland Fairs. Commercial poultry operations are one of the largest sectors of the agricultural industry in Maryland; the potential economic impact of widespread avian influenza infects would be extremely detrimental to all Maryland farmers and citizens. It is the responsibility of both commercial and hobby/backyard chicken flocks to engage in actively preventing and managing avian influenza.