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Avian Influenza and Arkansas Poultry

In this section:

Avian Influenza Webinar for Small Flock Owners

Avian Influenza Webinar for Commercial Flock Supervisors

Commercial and Backyard Poultry Keepers Urged to Review Biosecurity in Light of Potent Avian Flu

March 31, 2022 - There have been no detections in Arkansas to date in wild birds or poultry flocks.  However, an Emergency Rule that became effective on March 23, 2022 and in effect for 120 days prohibits the exhibition of poultry and waterfowl in Arkansas and requires that free range and backyard poultry be confined under roof or inside structures to prevent contamination from infected migratory birds flying overhead or direct exposure to wild birds. The rule also prohibits movement of poultry or domestic waterfowl from or within an affected area. The rule is in effect for 120 days starting March 23, 2022.

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.

Biosecurity is a very important tool to use to prevent entry of a disease into your flock. It is extremely important that anyone involved with poultry production should review their premise Biosecurity procedures and protocols. This should be done by small backyard hobby flock owners and growers of commercial poultry to protect the health of their birds. Commercial poultry growers should follow company Biosecurity guidelines and work closely with their flock supervisors.  

Hobby/ backyard/ small flock owners can follow these procedures:

Recognize the signs of illness.
You as the poultry owner know your birds and in fact you probably look at your birds more than once a day. As such you can detect early signs of illness such as a change in the bird’s behavior; you just know that your birds are just not acting right.

There are many poultry diseases but typically some of the first signs of illness are:

  • a drop or cessation of egg production
  • lack of appetite
  • sneezing, gasping
  • diarrhea
  • drop in water consumption
  • discharges from the eye and/or nostril
  • ruffled feathers, huddling
  • bird keeping to itself

Do Not Bring Disease Home With You
If you purchase new birds make sure you look at them closely (even if from a reputable source) to check for signs of illness. This also is correct if it is your own bird returning 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. It is always best to isolate (quarantine) new and returning birds away from your home flock for a period of at least 30 days. Most diseases should manifest within this quarantine period.  Isolate the birds as far away from your home flock as you can (at least 100 feet, if possible) and be sure and care for these quarantined birds last.  Since equipment such as crates, nest boxes, etc could be contaminated with feces, exudates, cages, etc that contain disease organisms it is best to not borrow equipment. If that is not possible then thoroughly clean and disinfect the equipment before taking it onto your premise and before and after usage. 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 birds. 

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 

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.  

Keep away/Restrict visitors
Visitors could accidentally contaminate your poultry. Restrict visitors to your farm/poultry facility.  Have all visitors clean their shoes/boots and disinfect before visiting your poultry flock. A pair of boots for visitors to wear and a pair you wear just around your birds are even better. Keep your poultry pens and facilities locked to prevent access.

Get Help/Report the Unusual
If you see something in your flock unusual or is “just not right” get help immediately. Contact your local veterinarian, local county extension agent, Extension poultry veterinarian, state veterinarian, or USDA hotline. If you have a bird die contact your state or university diagnostic laboratory about submitting the bird for testing.

For more information visit the APHIS Defend the Flock Resource Center 

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

  • F. Dustan Clark, DVM, Arkansas Extension Poultry Veterinarian:, 479-957-4245

  • Terry Conger, DVM, Poultry Health /Epidemiologist:, 501- 224-9515

  • John G. Nilz, DVM, Arkansas State Veterinarian. 501- 297-2250

Download the March 31, 2022 update

Print our informational flyer

USA Wild Migratory Bird Surveillance (March 31, 2022) PDF

Download the wild migratory bird surveillance numbers

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.

What do the H and N mean?

There are many different subtypes of the Influenza type A virus. The virus has two types of proteins that project from the surface of the virus. These proteins are called hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA). There are multiple forms of both the hemagglutinin and neuraminidase protein designated by numbers such as H1,H5, N1,N2 etc.

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.

Symptoms of Avian Influenza Infection 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, a drop in egg production and 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 and 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.

Avian influenza viruses do not usually affect people; however, rare cases of human infection from certain strains of Avian Influenza viruses have been reported.

Avian Flu Resources

Avian Flu Alert Flyers


Additional Resources