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'Highly contagious' avian flu confirmed in Idaho chicken flock

Signs of avian flu in domestic poultry, including chickens, include sudden death, decreased appetite, breathing trouble, and dark combs and wattles, the ISDA says.

BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho State Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday that it has confirmed the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza virus in a flock of domestic chickens in Bingham County.

The case is the first confirmed HPAI case in domestic birds this season in Idaho. HPAI is highly contagious. The virus can cause "high death loss of all domestic and wild birds," the ISDA said in a news release.

Signs of HPAI in domestic poultry, according to the ISDA, include sudden death; decreased appetite and activity; breathing difficulty; and dark combs and wattles.

Avian influenza is spread between birds through close contact (mucous membranes), fecal matter and, sometimes, as an aerosol. The virus also can spread from one location to another when carried on tools, clothes, boots, vehicles and other objects.

It is rare for humans to become infected with HPAI, but in such cases symptoms may include conjunctivitis (pinkeye), fever, lethargy, aches, coughing, or diarrhea. When USDA guidelines for cooking poultry are followed, HPAI is not a foodborne illness, the ISDA said.

The state agriculture department strongly recommends that poultry owners reinforce biosecurity measures for their flocks and prevent wild waterfowl from interacting with chickens and other domestic birds. Biosecurity measures include the following:

  • Limiting the number of people who interact with your birds.
  • Washing hands before and after handling birds.
  • Having dedicated tools and clothing for each flock.
  • Activities where birds from multiple properties come in close contact are high risk and heavily discouraged, the ISDA says.
  • Bird owners should avoid public venues with birds of unknown health status, such as livestock exhibitions or bird auctions.

People who spend time in areas with high waterfowl traffic should also take precautions. Shoes and other clothing could become contaminated and spread the virus. The ISDA said the HPAI virus has persisted in migratory wild waterfowl since 2022, increasing the risk of domestic birds being exposed to the virus.

Veterinarians in Idaho are required to report positive HPAI detections to the agriculture department.

More information from the ISDA about avian flu is available here.

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