Avian Influenza Detected In Del. Chicken Flock – What Farmers, Growers Should Know


A case of avian influenza has been confirmed in a Delaware poultry farm, according to the Delaware Department of Agriculture.

Agriculture officials said Wednesday that the farm was showing increased mortality of birds over the past few days and a test confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza.

“We have taken immediate action to contain this disease and will continue to work with poultry owners, the industry, and our laboratory partners to protect against its spread,” Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael Scuse said. “This appears to be an isolated case, with no reports of disease among our chicken industry. Delmarva poultry is safe to eat, and consumers can be confident in the safety of their food.”

The affected farm is currently under quarantine, and its birds will be depopulated to prevent spread of avian influenza.

The Delaware Department of Agriculture provided additional background, including guidance for poultry growers, farmers, and people who raise chickens in their back yards:

Avian influenza is an airborne respiratory virus that spreads easily among chickens through nasal and eye secretions, as well as manure. The virus can be spread in various ways from flock to flock, including by wild birds, through contact with infected poultry, by equipment, and on the clothing and shoes of caretakers.

The farm is under quarantine to stop the spread of avian influenza to other flocks in the state. The birds on the affected farm will be depopulated to prevent the spread of disease and will not enter the food system. Due to the severity of this avian influenza, anyone found trespassing on a quarantined farm will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

The avian influenza detection was the highly pathogenic H5 type, which is more severe and can cause high mortality in poultry flocks. It is the same strain confirmed in other states and wild birds in the Atlantic flyway.

It is not known exactly how the virus was contracted. Scuse encouraged all poultry flock owners to follow the strictest biosecurity on their farms to prevent the spread of the disease. Those steps include:

•             Limit, monitor, and record any movement of people, vehicles or animals on or off your farm.

•             Permit only essential workers and vehicles to enter the farm to limit the chances of bringing the virus from an outside source.

•             Avoid visiting other poultry farms and any unnecessary travel off the farm.

•             Disinfect equipment, vehicles, footwear, and other items that come into contact with flocks.

•             Keep your flock away from wild or migratory birds, especially waterfowl.

•             Isolate any ill animals and contact your veterinarian.

This finding is the first case of HPAI in commercial poultry in Delaware since 2004.

Positive test results were confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Service Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. Preliminary testing was performed at the University of Delaware’s Allen Laboratory in Newark, part of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network.

For more information on avian influenza and protecting poultry, visit https://de.gov/poultry. Backyard flock owners who have sick or unusual deaths in their flocks should email Poultry.Health@delaware.gov or call (302) 698-4507.

Additional background

Avian influenza (AI) is caused by an influenza type A virus that can infect poultry (such as chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, domestic ducks, geese, and guinea fowl) and is carried by free flying waterfowl and wild birds, such as ducks, geese, raptors, and shorebirds. AI viruses are classified by a combination of two groups of proteins: hemagglutinin or “H” proteins, of which there are 16 (H1–H16), and neuraminidase or “N” proteins, of which there are 9 (N1–N9). Many different combinations of “H” and “N” proteins are possible. Each combination is considered a different subtype and can be further broken down into different strains which circulate within flyways/geographic regions. AI viruses are further classified by their pathogenicity (low or high)—the ability of a particular virus strain to produce disease in domestic poultry.