NEWS

Avian Influenza Detected in Jefferson County Waterfowl

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Oct. 21, 2022) — Federal authorities have confirmed the presence of avian flu in waterfowl in Jefferson County, the first time the virus has been detected in wild birds in Kentucky since May.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in samples from two different waterfowl species collected at a neighborhood pond in Jefferson County on Oct. 5. This follows detection of the same virus in domestic, backyard flocks in Fayette and Logan Counties earlier this month.

The current outbreak of HPAI is having significant impacts on wild birds and can devastate commercial and backyard flocks. Transmission can occur several ways. Domestic birds can be exposed to the virus from contaminated clothing, boots, and equipment as well as from wild birds or their feces. It is important to practice good biosecurity and keep domestic birds isolated from other flocks.

The risk to human health posed by HPAI in wild birds and domestic poultry is low. Meat or eggs harvested from wild or domestic birds does not present a food safety risk when handled and cooked properly. Further information for hunters and other individuals that handle wild birds is available on the department's website (fw.ky.gov).

Surveillance for avian influenza viruses in wild populations can provide a warning to commercial producers and farmers to help prevent domestic exposure. USDA and state wildlife and animal health officials across the country have been preparing for the likely introduction of an Eurasian HPAI strain since fall 2021.

“Surveillance and monitoring in wild birds can help wildlife health officials understand the potential risk factors and impacts the disease is having on wild birds. While the disease is circulating in Kentucky it is important to limit contact between domestic and wild birds to minimize the risk of disease transmission," said Dr. Christine Casey, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife State Wildlife Veterinarian.

In response to detection of HPAI in two snow geese in Ballard County in February, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources opened a public reporting system and has followed up on calls regarding suspicious mortalities in waterfowl, bald eagles, raptors, and other avian scavengers. One additional case of HPAI was confirmed in May in a bald eagle from McLean County.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife's veterinarian and USDA biologists collected samples from more than 250 resident waterfowl during intensive surveillance efforts in May and August across Kentucky. No virus was detected in any of these samples.

Surveillance efforts continue to monitor for illness and any die-offs involving wild birds. The public can report observations of sick or dead wild birds directly to Kentucky Fish and Wildlife through an online reporting system at https://arcg.is/1KaDKT.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife asks for reports of wild bird die-offs of the following wild bird species:

  • Waterfowl (ducks, geese, or swans) and other water birds (coots, shorebirds or wading birds such as egrets, herons, cranes, grebes, or loons);
  • Birds of prey (eagles, hawks, or owls) or avian scavengers (crows, ravens, gulls or vultures), particularly those observed near locations of waterfowl die-offs;
  • Wild turkeys; or
  • Any five or more individuals of wild bird species not listed above in close proximity to each other.

 The online reporting system can also be accessed through the Avian Influenza webpage on the department's website (fw.ky.gov).

The public can help limit the spread of the disease by avoiding contact with birds and their droppings at home and outdoor areas such as parks and ponds. They can also practice good hygiene with such simple precautions as wearing gloves, changing shoes, and disinfecting exposed tools or materials before coming into contact with any pet or domestic bird species at home.

Federal and state agencies recommend that anyone involved with poultry production, from commercial producers to those with small backyard flocks, review their biosecurity practices to ensure the on-going health of their birds. All domestic or backyard flock illness or deaths should be reported to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture by calling the Sick Bird Hotline at 866-536-7593. More information is available at kyagr.com/hpai.

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