CASSOPOLIS, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – Officials with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) have confirmed a case of the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in a backyard flock in Cass County, marking the first time the disease has been detected in the area since 2022. 

“While there have been fewer detections of HPAI in the United States and Michigan this year, the threat posed by this virus was never fully eliminated. Even though this detection is unfortunate, it is not unexpected, as cases of HPAI continue to be discovered both nationally and in Michigan’s wildlife, meaning the virus is still very present and circulating in the environment,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Nora Wineland. “The best strategy any bird owner has against this disease is prevention. It is essential to continue taking precautionary measures to protect flocks from wild birds and the germs they could be carrying.”

MORE NEWS: Crashes Involving Pedestrians, Bikes Increasing

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are two types of Avian influenza A viruses, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) and low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI). 

“Most bird flu viruses are low pathogenic and cause few or no signs of disease in infected wild birds,” the CDC said, “LPAI viruses also cause either no signs of disease or mild disease in chickens and other domestic poultry. In contrast, HPAI viruses can cause severe disease and high mortality in infected poultry yet cause little to no disease signs in certain wild aquatic bird species.” 

The wild and domestic birds that can be affected are waterbirds such as ducks, geese and swans, and shorebirds, like storks according to the CDC.  Additionally, the bird flu can spread to wild birds like poultry such as chickens and turkeys. 

The CDC also suggested several steps to try and reduce the chance of spread in Michigan’s domestic birds: 

  • 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.
  • Disinfect boots and other gear when moving between coops.
  • Do not share equipment or other supplies between coops or other farms.
  • Clean and disinfect equipment and other supplies between uses. If it cannot be disinfected, discard it.
  • Use 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.

In the beginning of October, the United States banned the import of certain meats from France in light of the country’s decision to begin vaccination against HPAI according to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), a subgroup of the Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

“Vaccination of poultry against HPAI virus may mask HPAI virus circulating in poultry,” APHIS officials said, “Vaccinated birds may not show signs of HPAI infection, which could lead to the export of infected live animals or virus-contaminated products to the United States.” 

MORE NEWS: Hunter Safety Education Week Kicks Off Aug. 12

In April 2022, the first human case of HPAI virus was reported in the U.S., roughly two years after the first cases of the disease was reported in poultry. 

MDARD suggests reporting suspected domestic birds to MDARD at (800)-292-3939 during the day and (517)-373-0440 after hours. Signs to keep an eye on include “multiple sudden deaths in the flock, a drop in egg production, a significant decrease in water consumption, diarrhea, sneezing/coughing, or an increase in sick birds,” according to MDARD. 

For wild bird populations, residents are encouraged to use the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Eyes in the Field app and select “Diseased Wildlife” when reporting. Alternatively, they may call the DNR’s Wildlife Disease Laboratory at (517)-336-5030.