On Monday (April 18), the state veterinarian urges bird owners to take action now to protect their flocks as the threat continues to grow.
“A single wild bird is all it takes,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Nora Wineland. “That’s very scary and very concerning.”
It’s called Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, more commonly known as bird flu.
Dr. Wineland says infected birds can spread it quickly.
“We generally don’t see domestic birds surviving this virus, so that puts it at a pretty big risk,” Dr. Wineland said.
Everyone from large commercial operations to those with small backyard flocks is urged to prevent any exposure to wild birds and their droppings.
“We’re really telling people to get your birds inside,” Dr. Wineland said. “If you can keep them inside, do so.”
Dr. Wineland says that disinfecting equipment and keeping bird feed secure are also critical.
“Pay attention to changing your footgear, your clothes when you go in to take care of your birds,” Dr. Wineland said. “Don’t be wearing the same street clothes you’ve been wearing out where perhaps you walked through areas where wild birds have left some virus behind.”
Any sick domestic birds should be reported immediately to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
“They have nasal discharge, they can have diarrhea, these birds do not feel well when they get this virus,” Dr. Wineland said.
So far, no human cases have been identified in the United States.
“Whenever we are finding diseases in domestic birds, the health department is interested in monitoring the people and making sure that there is no illness because, as we all know, some of these diseases can cross,” Dr. Wineland said.
The Washtenaw County case involved pet parrots who died from the virus. Experts say birds who live indoors can be infected by food, clothing, or other items with contact with wild birds or their waste.