Avian influenza (AI) is primarily disease of poultry, waterfowl and migratory birds caused by Type A influenza viruses. This virus can infect several species of domestic poultry, including chickens, turkeys, quail, guinea fowl and ducks, as well as caged and wild birds. AI viruses have also been isolated, although less frequently, from mammalian species, including rats, mice, weasels, ferrets, pigs, cats, tigers, dogs and horses, as well as from humans.
There are many AI virus strains, which are usually classified into two categories according to the severity of the disease in poultry: low pathogenic (LPAI) strains, which typically cause few or no clinical signs in poultry, and highly pathogenic (HPAI) strains, which can cause severe clinical signs and potentially high mortality rates among poultry.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 has been confirmed in wild, captive, commercial and backyard birds in 21 states since December 2014. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) has confirmed 223 detections of HPAI H5 in backyard and commercial poultry in 15 states, with over 48 million birds affected as of early July 2015. No new outbreaks have been reported in poultry since mid-June. However, agriculture and industry representatives anticipate a possible resurgence in fall 2015.
- A total of 5 poultry facilities in Nebraska were confirmed to have HPAI. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture continues to work with each facility to quarantine, test, and eventually, repopulate the facilities.
- No human infections have been recognized in association with this outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control considers the risk to people to be low. No infections in people have been reported thus far.
- Avian influenza is primarily spread by direct contact between healthy birds and infected birds, and through indirect contact with contaminated equipment and materials.
- Upland game bird and waterfowl hunters who own poultry or other captive birds should take the below precautions when handling wild birds or cleaning game. These are also good rules of thumb for all hunters cleaning any type of game.
- Avoid handling wild birds that are obviously sick or found dead.
- Dress your game birds in the field whenever possible.
- If dressing birds at home, double bag the remains and place in a trash can that is secure against access by pets or other animals.
- Do not eat, drink or smoke while cleaning game.
- Wear rubber gloves while cleaning game.
- Wash hands, all tools and work surfaces with soap and water (or alcohol wipes if unavailable) after cleaning game.
- Avoid cross-contamination. Keep uncooked game in a separate container away from cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
- Cook game bird meat (as with all poultry and eggs) thoroughly – to an internal temperature of 165 F.
- Anyone recently handling game birds should not visit any backyard poultry or commercial poultry site.
- There is no evidence thus far that dogs used for game bird hunting are considered at risk of acquiring avian influenza. There have been no cases of the HPAI virus infecting dogs of any kind in North America.
- There are currently no bans restricting movement of legally possessed captive game birds into Nebraska.
- Those seeking to import pen-raised pheasants, quail or other game birds into the state should contact the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.
- If you have questions about your Controlled Shooting Area or Captive Wildlife Permit, contact the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
- The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission asks the public to contact the nearest office if they find dead birds of any species near a commercial or backyard poultry facility where HPAI has been confirmed, as well as mortalities of wild waterfowl, raptors (hawks, owls, eagles or vultures) and scavengers (ravens, crows or gulls), turkeys, quail, grouse, or large die-offs of other wild bird species.
- All bird owners, whether commercial producers or backyard enthusiasts, should prevent contact between their birds and wild birds, and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials, either through the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (877-800-4080) or through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (866-536-7593).
- Federal and State partners are working jointly on additional surveillance and testing of wild birds near the poultry facilities where HPAI was detected, as well as wild waterfowl elsewhere in the state, following existing avian influenza response plans.
Additional information on biosecurity for backyard flocks can be found on the USDA website For upland game bird production, please review the Nebraska Department of Agriculture’s Nebraska Poultry Biosecurity Guidebook Upland Gamebird.