By Mary Beth Sallee
Hart Co. News Herald
The highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) of 2024 has now been detected in Kentucky.
On December 18, 2023, two snow geese were found dead at the Sloughs Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Henderson County in the western part of the state. After testing was conducted, the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study Virology Laboratory confirmed HPAI in the geese.
HPAI is a highly contagious disease that is often fatal to birds and poultry. This year, HPAI outbreaks have been confirmed in nine European countries, including Germany, France, Poland, and Sweden. Cases of the virus have also been confirmed in poultry and birds throughout the United States.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website, in the past 30 days there have been 32 flocks (18 commercial and 14 backyard) that have been confirmed as having HPAI. The number of birds affected among these flocks totals 4.22 million. This includes over 2.3 million birds in California, over 1.3 million in Ohio, over 277,000 birds in Kansas, and over 98,000 in Pennsylvania, as well as birds in South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
Also within the past 30 days, HPAI has been detected in wild birds in Florida, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon, as well as Kentucky.
HPAI is frequently carried to new areas by migrating wild birds who then expose other wild birds, fowl, and even domestic poultry to the virus. Birds infected with HPAI often spread the virus through their feces, mucus, and saliva. Therefore, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) website encourages waterfowl hunters and people hiking through pond, lake, and stream habitats to take precautions. Wearing gloves, changing shoes, and disinfecting tools/material are highly encouraged before coming into contact with poultry flocks and domestic birds at their home.
“HPAI is highly infectious and often deadly in wild and domestic birds,” stated KDFWR veterinarian Dr. Christine Casey. “Practicing good biosecurity and limiting contact between wild birds and domestic flocks is crucial to preventing the spread of the disease.”
Symptoms of HPAI in infected birds include droopy wings, unwillingness to fly, lethargy, head tremors, and swimming in circles. However, birds may even be infected with HPAI and not show any signs of having the disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, the risk that HPAI poses to human health continues to be low. Meat and eggs harvested from domestic or wild birds do not seem to present a food safety risk when the meat and eggs are properly handled and cooked. Nevertheless, everyone, especially hunters, are urged to take precaution.
- Do not handle, harvest, or consume wild birds that are sick or found dead.
- Wear gloves and wash hands after handling birds or disposing of dead birds.
- Disinfect surfaces and equipment such as knives that may have come in contact with birds.
- Do not feed dogs raw or under-cooked meat from waterfowl or other birds.
Anyone who finds or comes into contact with sick or dead waterfowl, vultures, hawks, eagles, poultry, or groups of deceased birds can make a report to the HPAI survey portal online or call the agency’s center at 1-800-858-1549. Additional information about HPAI can be found on the KDFWR website at fw.ky.gov under Avian Influenza.