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Got Chickens? Avian Flu May Be Spreading In Area, Take Precautions to Protect Your Flock

The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources warns that Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has been found in wild water birds, domestic birds or both along the east coast from Canada to Florida, including Massachusetts.

HPAI can spread to domestic poultry and will likely kill them within days of infection.

Domestic poultry are exposed to HPAI through contact with infected birds, their droppings or feathers. Pastures, yards, ponds and equipment easily become contaminated with HPAI virus.

The MDAR recommends taking steps to reduce the chances of your flock being infected:

• Never introduce adult birds into an established flock unless they pass quarantine (30 days isolation) or are tested clean of disease.
• Do not house different species together (chickens with turkeys or waterfowl).
• Prevent visitors from accessing your pens or coops. Do not visit other poultry facilities.
• Confine birds to an indoor area (covered coop or outbuilding).
• Do not share equipment, supplies or vehicles with other bird owners.
• Use a disinfectant footbath before entering the coop or other poultry areas.
• Clean and disinfect all equipment, shoes, clothes and vehicles before entering poultry areas.
• Remove dirt and manure from surfaces before disinfection.
• Practice “all in, all out” when changing flocks. Disinfect the coop before getting any new birds.
• Check for parasites monthly and treat if necessary. Use a dusting area to prevent external parasites.
• Keep insects and animals, especially wild birds, out of the chicken coop and feed.

It is important to know the warning signs of avian influenza. Birds with HPAI produce more virus over time. Early detection helps prevent the spread of disease. Look for these signs:

• Increase in unexplained deaths in your flock, with or without symptoms
• Sneezing, gasping for air, coughing, and/ or runny nose
• Decrease in water or feed consumption
• Watery, green diarrhea
• Lack of energy or unusually quiet
• Drop in egg production, or soft or thin-shelled, misshapen eggs
• Swelling around the eyes, neck, or head
• Purple discoloration of the wattles, combs, and legs

Find more information and links in this handout.

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