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5 THINGS TO KNOW: How to safely raise backyard poultry to avoid the spread of illness

McAlester News-Capital - 5/29/2024

May 29—The Oklahoma State Department of Health gives tips on how to safely raise backyard poultry to prevent the spread of avian influenza.

1 What is avian influenza?

HPAI is an influenza virus that can cause severe illness and sudden death in chickens. Wild birds are also susceptible to HPAI but are more resistant to the virus and rarely show signs of illness. However, while wild birds may appear healthy, they can be carriers of HPAI which is deadly to domestic birds.

2 What happens if chickens are exposed?

Chickens exposed to wild birds carrying the HPAI virus are at greatest risk for developing this disease that can quickly become widespread to backyard and commercial flocks. Although rare, there are cases where humans have been infected.

3 Why is it important to protect my chickens?

"The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) wants to remind flock owners to learn about and practice essential prevention measures to minimize the risk of disease transmission among both birds and humans, known as biosecurity," said Ashlyn Wayman, a lead investigative epidemiologist with the Infectious Disease Prevention and Response service. "Biosecurity practices are vital in protecting not only your own birds, but neighboring flocks as well as our nation's commercial poultry industry, from diseases like highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI)."

4 What are some examples of biosecurity practices?

Examples of biosecurity practices to protect backyard flocks include, don't set up bird feeders near chicken coops, keep feed covered to protect it from exposure to wild birds and rodents, avoid wearing boots and clothes used to bird hunt when caring for domestic birds and, if possible, house birds in a pen that prevents wild birds and predators from entering.

5 What can I do to prevent possible exposure to Avian Influenza?

Never eat, drink or put anything in your mouth while handling poultry.

Wash hands with soap and water immediately after handling any type of bird. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 62 percent ethyl alcohol.

Do not wash animal food and water dishes from a backyard poultry flock in the kitchen sink.

Do not let children younger than five years of age handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry without supervision. Children younger than five years of age are more likely to get sick from exposure to germs like Salmonella.

Symptoms of Salmonella are diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain, headache, muscle aches, nausea and sometimes vomiting. Blood is sometimes found in the stool. The illness usually lasts four to seven days, but can last as long as two weeks.

—Derrick James

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