The Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) has announced that cases of High Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) have been confirmed in two separate flocks of domestic chickens in Gooding and Caribou counties. ISDA stated on April 15 that the outbreaks appear to be unrelated.
HPAI was detected in mid-February in wild and domestic bird populations. At the end of March, HPAI was detected in domestic chickens in Massachusetts, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio and Wyoming. The U.S. Department of Agriculture list of confirmed outbreaks tabulated 189 locations in 24 states on April 15.
HPAI is carried by waterfowl along their migratory path. Idaho is within the Pacific Flyway for wild ducks and geese. Domestic birds and poultry are very susceptible to morbidity and mortality once infected. HPAI is transmitted between birds through close contact (mucous), fecal matter and sometimes as an aerosol. It is can also be carried on objects such as tools, vehicles, clothes and boots, which can transfer the virus from one location to another.
Signs of HPAI in domestic poultry frequently include decreased appetite and activity, respiratory difficulty, dark combs and wattles, and unexplained mortality. It is essential for poultry owners to be vigilant in monitoring for illness and contacting the ISDA State Veterinarian immediately when HPAI symptoms are confirmed. HPAI is a reportable disease in Idaho, and veterinarians are required to report positive detections to the ISDA.
HPAI is a highly contagious virus that is often fatal to chickens. It is uncommon but possible for the virus to spread to humans, and symptoms can include conjunctivitis, fever, lethargy, aches, coughing or diarrhea. People who have direct contact with domesticated fowl are at highest risk. HPAI is not a foodborne illness if U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines for cooking chicken are followed.