Because of recent cases of pathogenic strains of avian influenza in the western United States and Canada, it is important for hobby and backyard chicken owners to understand the disease and know what they can do to protect their flocks.
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According to David Frame, Utah State University Extension poultry specialist, avian influenza (AI), commonly referred to as “bird flu,” is a highly contagious viral disease that can cause sickness and death in domestic poultry.
“If highly pathogenic forms of AI occur in commercial chicken or turkey operations, our international commerce of poultry products could be drastically affected,” he said.
Frame said backyard chicken owners should be aware of signs of the disease which include swelling around the head, heavy nasal discharge, sustained coughing and sneezing or sudden death.
He said there are measures chicken owners can take to protect their flocks from exposure and infection.
“First and foremost do not to co-mingle chickens and other poultry with waterfowl, either wild or domestic,” he said. “Waterfowl are the natural hosts for AI viruses, and they can shed the virus through their feces, contaminating surface waters and infecting nearby poultry. Waterfowl normally do not show signs of illness; however, once poultry are infected, serious illness and death may occur.”
Frame said counties adjacent to large bodies of water where migrating waterfowl tend to congregate are at greater risk, including Box Elder, Weber, Davis, Salt Lake, Tooele, Juab and Utah counties.
“It is important to keep all domestic poultry away from swamps, ditches and ponds,” he said. “Never allow your chickens to have access to pond or ditch water, and provide clean chlorinated drinking water at all times – preferably from a culinary water source.”
For the rest of the article please visit Bird Flu awareness important for backyard chicken owners
For further information, a recorded presentation of a recent webinar on avian influenza presented by Frame and Warren Hess, acting state veterinarian, can be accessed at http://chicken.usu.edu under “Resources.”