Bird flu found in commercial poultry flock in Muskegon County: Here’s what to know

Officials say poultry, eggs are safe to eat when handled and cooked properly

A chicken walks past the mobile chicken coop on the farm of Jim Medeiros at his farm Wednesday, April 20, 2022, in Wilsons, Va. Medeiros owns a 143-acre dairy and poultry farm and has had issues with hunting dogs on his property killing chickens. (AP Photo/Steve Helber) (Steve Helber, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. – Bird flu has been detected in a commercial poultry facility in Muskegon County. This is the first detection of avian influenza (HPAI) in a commercial poultry operation in Michigan.

Bird flu is a highly contagious virus that can spread from flock to flock, including by wild birds. The premises is under quarantine and the birds have been killed to prevent the disease from spreading.

“Before Michigan’s first detection of HPAI in backyard poultry in late February, MDARD has been preparing for all types of outbreak scenarios, including within a commercial setting, allowing the department to take swift action in partnership with the producer. The department has already identified a control area and surveillance zone to monitor for and prevent further spread of the virus,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Nora Wineland. “We will continue to ask every poultry owner, whether a backyard owner or commercial grower, to take preventative actions to help stop the spread of HPAI. It’s a team effort to defend the flocks in Michigan.”

The CDC has said the risk to the public is low. There has only been one report of bird flu in a human in the United States and that case was in Colorado. The person had direct exposure to the infected poultry and was involved in killing them. They only experienced fatigue for a few days and have since recovered.

No birds or bird products known to be infected with HPAI will enter the commercial food chain, according to state officials.

“While human health risk is low regarding HPAI, Michigan’s 45 local health departments are working in conjunction with our state partners to monitor those at higher risk for exposure and help protect overall public health,” said Norm Hess, Executive Director, Michigan Association for Local Public Health. “Local health officers are an essential part of emergency response, including HPAI, by monitoring and assisting responders to limit potential spread.”

What you can do to protect your birds

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said poultry owners should minimize the number of people coming in contact with their birds and isolate their birds from wild birds when possible. You should also disinfect your hands and clothing after coming into contact with poultry.

Michigan officials also recommend the following steps:

  • Prevent contact between domestic and wild birds by bringing them indoors or ensuring their outdoor area is fully enclosed.
  • Wash your hands before and after handling birds as well as when moving between different coops.
  • Disinfecting boots and other gear when moving between coops.
  • Do not share equipment or other supplies between coops or other farms.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting equipment and other supplies between uses. If it cannot be disinfected, discard it.
  • Using well or municipal water as drinking water for birds.
  • Keep poultry feed secure to ensure there is no contact between the feed/feed ingredients and wild birds or rodents.

What are the signs of HPAI?

There may be an absence of many of the routine signs of illness in domestic poultry, according to the DNR.

One of the major indicators of HPAI is sudden death and high death losses. Sick birds may show neurological signs like difficulty walking, lack of appetite, low energy, or lack of vocalization.

You might notice a significant drop in egg production, swollen combs, wattles, legs, or head. They could also have diarrhea, nasal discharge, sneezing, or coughing.

Ducks and geese are considered carriers, but geese generally do not pass on bird flu.

How to report a sick bird

Domestic bird owners should watch out for unusual deaths, a drop in egg protection, a decrease in water consumption or an increase in sick birds. If you suspect your birds have bird flu you should contact MDARD at 800-292-3939 (daytime) or 517-373-0440 (after-hours).

If you see any unusual or unexplained deaths among wild birds you can report those to the DNR through the Eyes in the Field app (select observation forms) or by calling 517-336-5030.

Read: Previous coverage on bird flu

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About the Author:

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.