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Disease Information

Influenza is a virus that can infect humans and many animal species, including poultry and other birds. Influenza is not uncommon and it has been around for centuries. Influenza in poultry is not a food safety issue.

Influenza in poultry falls into two groups: low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI), or highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).

  • Similar to influenza symptoms in people, birds infected with LPAI usually experience only mild signs if any, including respiratory signs such as conjunctivitis and nasal discharge, ruffled feathers or a drop in egg production.
  • Unlike LPAI, the first indication of HPAI in poultry is sudden death, often without signs of illness. In the last 40 years, there have been introductions of LPAI in Minnesota poultry all of which have been successfully eliminated.

Theses are keys to detecting and preventing avian influenza in Minnesota:

  1. KNOW THE SIGNS. Any unexplained increase in mortality, decreased egg production, respiratory issues, quiet or depressed birds or neurologic (twisted necks) signs of disease should be investigated. Make sure the people who work with your birds daily (either you or your workers) know what to look for. If you find one or two dead birds in your flock for a couple days in a row, and cannot explain their death, contact your veterinarian, even if all other birds look fine.
  2. REPORT WHAT YOU’RE SEEING. Call your veterinarian to describe the signs in your flock. Call the Board at 320-231-5170 if you do not have a veterinarian.
  3. SUBMIT SAMPLES FOR TESTING. Samples for official avian influenza testing must be collected by an accredited veterinarian or individuals trained and certified as authorized poultry testing agents. The Minnesota Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza Response Plan requires 30 pooled tracheal swab samples from each barn when birds are showing signs of disease consistent with influenza. Always collect samples from dead birds before others. Every grower should calculate the number of tracheal swab supplies (BHI tubes and swabs) needed to sample flocks within your operation. Call the MPTL (320-231-5170) or email poultry@state.mn.us to get supplies at no cost! Samples should be submitted to the Minnesota Poultry Testing Laboratory (MPTL). When collecting samples in these situations, please call ahead to the MPTL to notify when samples will arrive.
  4. PREVENT EXPOSURE. Follow your biosecurity plan. Biosecurity can prevent avian influenza if you use it consistently. Pay special attention to the line of separation. Carefully follow safe entry and exit procedures into your flock. Spring weather can make these procedures difficult because of mud, rain, wind and other shifting weather conditions. At the same time, puddles and other standing water may attract waterfowl to get even closer to barns. This is the time to really focus on safe barn entries. Make sure garbage and dead birds are picked up outside of your perimeter buffer area. One of the most common ways HPAI moves around is through the movement of dead birds and garbage off the farm.
  5. IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING. Remind everyone you talk to about their role in your farm’s biosecurity. Evaluate your risks, ask questions and participate in protecting your flocks.

Hotlines

The following hotlines are available to the public to address the following topics related to avian influenza in Minnesota.

General questions about avian influenza and biosecurity 320-231-5170
Report sick or dead poultry (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
320-231-5170
Report sick or dead wild waterfowl
888-646-6367 (DNR)

Influenza Response Activities

The Board continues to work together with Minnesota’s poultry industry and other state and federal agencies to prepare for and respond to introductions of influenza in poultry. Minnesota’s Initial State Response and Containment Plan, “The Minnesota Plan” is a document used to outline the response to an H5/H7 LPAI outbreak in Minnesota poultry. The objectives of the Minnesota Plan are to:

  • Detect H5/H7 LPAI exposure in Minnesota poultry populations and respond accordingly.
  • Assure that H5/H7 LPAI viruses are not circulating in Minnesota poultry populations.
  • Monitor and address worker safety.
  • Provide guidance and assistance to Minnesota poultry producers and companies for a consistent and equitable response.
  • Demonstrate to trading partners and consumers that poultry in Minnesota is free of avian influenza viruses, thereby minimizing trade restrictions to the Minnesota poultry industry.

Biosecurity

Protecting your birds from disease has always been important. However, taking biosecurity to the next level is now more crucial than ever. As we work together to prevent avian influenza introductions and add strength to Minnesota’s poultry industry, there are small steps you can take that will have a big impact.

  1. Follow your biosecurity plan. All workers on the farm should be familiar with and follow the site-specific biosecurity procedures. All procedures and practices should be able to be implemented consistently.
  2. Eliminate opportunities for your birds to interact with wild birds. We know that wild waterfowl are carriers of disease, including avian influenza. The best way to avoid diseases that wildlife carry is to keep domestic animals separated from the wild.
  3. If you have birds at home, do not visit another farm, home or facility that also has birds. If you must visit another premises, be sure to shower and put on clean clothes and shoes beforehand.
  4. Remember that vehicles can be vehicles for disease transmission. Before you drive down the road, consider where you are going. Will you be heading to the fair, another farm or a live bird market? If the answer is yes, be sure your vehicle is clean and free of dirt, manure and other organic material.
  5. Early detection can help prevent the spread of disease. Knowing the signs to look for and monitoring the health of your birds on a regular basis is very important. Some signs to look for include nasal discharge, unusually quiet birds, decreased food and water consumption, drop in egg production, and increased/unusual death loss in your flock.
  6. Report sick and dead birds to state health officials immediately. If your poultry appear sick or you have experienced increased mortality, please contact the Board at 320-231-5170.

USDA's "Defend The Flock"

The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides resources for the poultry industry to keep birds healthy. There are biosecurity assessments for farmers, disease preparedness planning guides, and many more helpful resources for anyone in the poultry industry, from backyard producers to commercial flocks. Click here to access the Defend The Flock website.