ALBANY COUNTY – All bird owners should watch for signs of bird flu after cases were identified in several counties in the Hudson Valley, according to the Cornell Cooperative Extension.
Bird flu is an extremely contagious virus that can spread rapidly in domestic flocks. Wild birds often transmit the disease to domestic fowl, sometimes requiring owners to have infected specimens euthanized if the virus itself does not cause death before it is noticed.
In 2014 and 2015, a particularly severe outbreak of the disease killed 50 million birds in 15 states, according to a article in the Cornell Chronicle.
As a result of this outbreak, but more as a precaution than due to significant local impacts, the Altamont Fair has had to cancel its annual bird show, said the fair’s poultry superintendent, Father Jeffrey L ‘Arche, at The Enterprise this week. In 2015, the state Department of Agriculture and Markets banned all live poultry competitions.
It’s not yet known if an outbreak of this magnitude is imminent, but people should do what they can to minimize the spread while the situation is still relatively mild, said Stephen Hadcock, of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Albany County’s Agricultural Entrepreneurship and Market Development, at The Enterprise. Tuesday.
“In my opinion, we don’t really know how bad it is…” Hadcock said. “We are trying to make sure people are aware that this is indeed a concern and that they need to take the appropriate steps to protect their own herds, but we cannot really predict if we will have an outbreak. as bad as we did in 2014, 2015.”
Hadcock said the key is to limit contact between domestic flocks and wild waterfowl.
“There’s not really much we can do for wildlife,” he said. “The only thing we can do is take steps to ensure that a backyard flock or a commercial flock does not come into contact with wild waterfowl in any way.”
Hadcock added: “If a herd in a particular area is determined [by New York State Agriculture and Markets] to have the disease, then not only is that flock quarantined and observed, but all flocks within a certain geographic radius would have to be quarantined, and birds in that flock could not enter or leave that quarantine area.
And, if the virus enters a herd, there’s “a high probability that your herd will be depopulated,” Hadcock said.
He advised bird owners to “work with their own vet if they have one, but definitely a state vet. If a herd is positively diagnosed, Ag and Markets will be involved and the state veterinarian for that area will be called and speak with the herd owner.
Hadcock sent The Enterprise a bird flu fact sheet that lists signs to look out for in flocks, including:
— Lethargy and loss of appetite;
— Sudden death without other symptoms;
— Malformed eggs or decreased egg production;
— Swelling of head, comb, eyelid, wattles and hocks ;
— Discoloration of wattles, comb and legs;
— Respiratory symptoms such as runny nose, coughing and sneezing;
— Discoordination; and
“In some cases,” the sheet reads, “expect 100% of the herd to die within days. Regardless of how the disease presents, a large proportion of the birds in a flock will be affected.
But L’Arche said these types of symptoms can be non-specific, meaning they can be caused by factors other than avian flu, in the same way that COVID-19 symptoms in some people looked like symptoms caused by the common cold.
“It can be very confusing,” he said. “One of the most important things if you are raising birds, from chicks to adults, is that the facilities should be clean, dry and free from drafts.”
A damp, cold coop can be a breeding ground for the virus, and chickens in such an area “are kind of guaranteed to come down with one thing or another.” Keeping a coop warm and dry, however, gives a chicken’s natural immune system a better chance to defend its health, he said.
L’Arche said it is in contact with the Poultry Judge who generally handles poultry proceedings at the Altamont Fair to keep abreast of local incidents, and that, as was the case in 2015 when the poultry show has been cancelled, it will be on the recommendation of public authorities that future events are canceled or proceed as planned.
L’Arche recalled another poultry show in Massachusetts he went to as a child that was hit hard by another type of virus that caused respiratory symptoms in birds, ultimately killing thousands of birds the week of one of the shows.
“There are now precautions against that, but that’s why you have to be very careful,” he said.
Avian flu cases in Albany County can be reported to Field Veterinarian Amy Willsey at 518-225-4628; the State Animal Health Diagnostic Center at 607-253-3900 or email@example.com; or the United States Department of Agriculture at 1-866-536-7593.