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Avian Influenza and Arkansas Poultry

H5N1 Avian Influenza: A Continued Threat

For the most accurate report of confirmed cases, visit the USDA website..

Oct 13, 2023

In 2022 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 was detected in poultry in 47 states. This was the largest outbreak of HPAI in US history.

The disease continued to be problematic in 2023 in both commercial and small hobby flocks. There were no positive flocks from mid-May to late July but in August-September a few positives were detected in live bird markets in the Northeast which showed the virus was still around.

In October 2023, a commercial flock of turkeys in South Dakota was confirmed positive for HPAI. Also, a small hobby flock was confirmed positive for H5N1 in Idaho. These flocks are currently under quarantine and depopulation procedures.

The disease is still in the wild waterfowl and with the Fall migration underway the risk to both commercial and small hobby flocks is increasing. Use biosecurity best practices to prevent flock infections.

How do I keep my birds safe from avian flu?

Use these best practices:

  1. Keep your birds indoors or covered to prevent exposure to wild or migratory birds.

  2. Repair any holes or tears in the pen as soon as detected to prevent wild birds or rodents from entering.

  3. Practice good vermin control. Mice and rats can carry diseases that can infect your birds. They can also attract snakes. Fly, buffalo gnat, and mosquito control are also important since these insects can carry and spread diseases. Wild birds should be excluded from your poultry pens as well. Secure poultry pens are necessary to exclude other wildlife, which may be predators of your poultry or could bring in diseases.  Although not vermin, pets should also be kept out of the poultry pens.

  4. Restrict access to any source of water that may have been contaminated by wild birds.

  5. If you visit an area where there are waterfowl (such as ponds, lakes, and hunting) or areas with poultry make sure you change clothes and shoes and wash your hands before checking on your own birds.

  6. Clean and disinfect. Keep poultry facilities clean and free of weeds, debris, spilled feed etc. In addition, clean areas around your poultry pens and facilities.

  7. Quarantine any new birds for a minimum of 2 weeks (30 days would be better). This should also be done after your own bird returns from a poultry exhibit. Admittedly, poultry exhibitors are trying to place at a show and a sick bird does not win. Unfortunately, it is possible that a bird could still be incubating a disease and some diseases cause few signs unless a bird becomes stressed.

  8. Keep unnecessary visitors away. Visitors could accidentally contaminate your poultry. 

  9. Keep a logbook or sign-in sheet for all necessary visitors coming onto your property. If they have been in contact with other birds DO NOT let them come in contact with your flock.

  10. Have all necessary visitors clean their shoes/boots and disinfect before visiting your poultry flock. Keeping a pair of boots for visitors to wear and a pair for you wear just around your birds are even better.

  11. Keep your poultry pens and facilities locked to prevent access.

  12. Do not borrow equipment (crates, nest boxes, cages, etc) since they could be contaminated with feces contain disease organisms. If that is not possible, thoroughly clean and disinfect the equipment before taking it onto your premise and before and after usage.

  13. Recognize the signs of illness in poultry.
    Signs of sickness in birds include:
    1. Sudden increase in bird deaths without any prior signs
    2. Decrease in water and feed intake
    3. Lack of energy
    4. Decrease in egg production; soft, thin shelled or misshapen eggs
    5. Swelling of the head, comb, wattles, eyelids, and hocks
    6. A dark blue-purple discoloration of the comb, wattles, and legs
    7. Difficulty breathing (gasping), coughing, sneezing, with/without discharge from the nostrils
    8. Incoordination, dizziness, stumbling, or falling down of birds
    9. Ruffled feathers
    10. Diarrhea

  14. Monitor all flocks for increased mortality or clinical signs and report any concerns to your veterinarian, the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Division at 501-823-1746, or your local Arkansas Cooperative Extension County Agent. Find your county office.

Please be advised that the next step to control disease may involve a quarantine of your premise, which would mandate the above measure. For more information on Avian Influenza or Biosecurity, we encourage you to visit the USDA’s Defend the flock website.

For questions on poultry diseases, care, and husbandry contact your local county Extension office or contact the numbers listed below:


What is avian influenza?

Avian Influenza, commonly known as “bird flu" or "AI," is an infectious disease of birds caused by type A Influenza viruses. The disease is carried by many wild bird species including migratory waterfowl like ducks and geese, which show few if any clinical signs of the disease. Influenza in birds is very contagious and can cause severe illness and death in domestic species such as chickens and turkeys.

How infectious is it?

The virus is also classified by pathogenicity -- the ability to cause disease in domestic chickens. There are two types of pathogenicity: low and high. Low pathogenic viruses usually do not cause illness whereas highly pathogenic viruses spread rapidly and cause high mortality in poultry. The types of Influenza viruses of greatest concern are the highly pathogenic and any H5 and H7 virus, since they have the ability to change from low pathogenic to high pathogenic.

What are the symptoms of avian influenza in poultry?

Avian Influenza has a variable incubation period in birds depending on the virus dose, poultry species infected, route of exposure, and several other factors. The symptoms exhibited by an infected bird also vary and depend on the pathogenicity of the virus.

Some of the possible symptoms are:

  • depression
  • diarrhea
  • dehydration
  • appetite loss
  • weight loss
  • huddling
  • drop in egg production
  • respiratory symptoms such as cough, sneeze, and sinusitis

Lesions that could be observed include:

  • a bloody nasal discharge
  • facial swelling
  • blue discoloration of the face
  • under-the-skin hemorrhaging
  • tracheal inflammation
  • nasal inflammation
  • hemorrhages on the shanks and in the proventriculus, which is part of the bird’s digestive system

There is no acceptable or practical treatment for poultry infected with high pathogenic avian influenza.

Can highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) affect humans?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the recent HPAI detections in birds do not present an immediate public health concern. No human cases of these avian influenza viruses have been detected in the United States.  As a reminder, the proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 ˚F kills bacteria and viruses.

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