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KDA: Avian influenza found in Kansas backyard flock

Kansas Department of Agriculture advises farmers to take biosecurity measures now to protect their flocks from highly pathogenic avian influenza.

Jennifer M. Latzke, Editor

March 22, 2022

3 Min Read
BIOSECURITY MEASURES: The Kansas Department of Agriculture advises farmers to take biosecurity precautions now to protect their commercial and backyard poultry flocks from highly pathogenic avian influenza. KDA announced March 9 it had discovered HPAI in wild fowl in central Kansas. Then, on March 12, it announced a backyard mixed-species flock in Franklin County, in eastern Kansas, had tested positive. There is no immediate public health concern; however, farmers need to take steps to protect their birds.Courtesy of Kansas State University Research and Extension

It’s a spring ritual for many backyard chicken farmers. But as they head to their local farm supply stores to purchase baby chicks to add to their flocks, the Kansas Department of Agriculture warns it has confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in wild birds and in a backyard flock in the state.

On March 9, KDA announced HPAI had been found in wild waterfowl in central Kansas. This was the state’s first confirmed case of HPAI since 2015.

“Confirmed HPAI in wild birds in central Kansas is an indication that Kansas birds are at risk of exposure from the wild migratory bird population,” said Justin Smith, Kansas animal health commissioner, in a press release. “We’ve encouraged Kansas poultry owners to be aware of this possibility, but now the reality is, all poultry owners need to be vigilant in taking steps to protect their flocks from avian influenza. If you haven’t implemented biosecurity practices yet, the time to do it is now.”

Then, on March 12, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service confirmed the presence of HPAI in a noncommercial backyard mixed-species poultry flock in Franklin County, in eastern Kansas. Samples from the flock were tested at the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and confirmed at the USDA APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa.

KDA is working with USDA APHIS on a joint incident response. KDA officials reportedly quarantined the affected premises, and birds on the property will be depopulated to prevent the spread of the disease.

Avian influenza

HPAI is a highly contagious viral disease that can infect chickens, turkeys and other birds; it can cause severe illness and/or sudden death in infected birds. Avian influenza can also cause sudden death in birds even if they aren’t showing other symptoms.

Notable symptoms of HPAI to watch for include:

  • coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, and other signs of respiratory distress

  • lack of energy and appetite

  • decreased water consumption

  • decreased egg production and/or soft-shelled, misshapen eggs

  • lack of coordination

  • diarrhea

If these symptoms are observed in your birds, contact your veterinarian immediately. If you don’t have a regular veterinarian, contact KDA’s Division of Animal Health office toll-free at 833-765-2006.

Biosecurity precautions

Anyone involved who produces poultry, from the small backyard chicken owner to the large commercial producer, should review their biosecurity activities to ensure the health of their birds, according to KDA.

The steps to take include:

  1. Prevent contact with wild birds, especially wild waterfowl. Remove any potential nesting areas for wild birds.

  2. Cover and enclose outdoor feeding areas and stored feed.

  3. Take all possible steps to separate wild birds from having any access to your flock or its living area.

  4. Clean and disinfect any vehicle tires or equipment that has been on other farms or other locations where there is poultry or wild birds.

  5. Wear clean clothing, boots, and shoes when in contact with your flock.

  6. Restrict unauthorized people and vehicles onto property.

  7. Isolate new birds before introducing them into your flock.

Find guidance on biosecurity on the KDA Division of Animal Health webpage, agriculture.ks.gov/hpai. More biosecurity resources as well as updates on the current HPAI status nationwide can be found on the APHIS website, aphis.usda.gov/hpai.

Continuing response

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the recent HPAI detections do not present an immediate public health concern. No human cases of these avian influenza viruses have been detected in the United States. Birds and eggs from the infected flock will not enter the food system.

As part of existing avian influenza response plans, federal and state partners are working jointly on additional surveillance and testing in areas around the affected flocks. USDA is working with its partners to actively look for the disease in commercial poultry operations, live bird markets and in migratory wild bird populations.

The Kansas Department of Agriculture contributed to this article.

About the Author(s)

Jennifer M. Latzke

Editor, Kansas Farmer

Through all her travels, Jennifer M. Latzke knows that there is no place like Kansas.

Jennifer grew up on her family’s multigenerational registered Angus seedstock ranch and diversified farm just north of Woodbine, Kan., about 30 minutes south of Junction City on the edge of the Kansas Flint Hills. Rock Springs Ranch State 4-H Center was in her family’s backyard.

While at Kansas State University, Jennifer was a member of the Sigma Kappa Sorority and a national officer for the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. She graduated in May 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and a minor in animal science. In August 2000 Jennifer started her 20-year agricultural writing career in Dodge City, Kan., on the far southwest corner of the state.

She’s traveled across the U.S. writing on wheat, sorghum, corn, cotton, dairy and beef stories as well as breaking news and policy at the local, state and national levels. Latzke has traveled across Mexico and South America with the U.S. Wheat Associates and toured Vietnam as a member of KARL Class X. She’s traveled to Argentina as one of 10 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism. And she was part of a delegation of AAEA: The Ag Communicators Network members invited to Cuba.

Jennifer’s an award-winning writer, columnist, and podcaster, recognized by the Kansas Professional Communicators, Kansas Press Association, the National Federation of Presswomen, Livestock Publications Council, and AAEA. In 2019, Jennifer reached the pinnacle of achievements, earning the title of “Writer of Merit” from AAEA.

Trips and accolades are lovely, but Jennifer says she is happiest on the road talking to farmers and ranchers and gathering stories and photos to share with readers.

“It’s an honor and a great responsibility to be able to tell someone’s story and bring them recognition for their work on the land,” Jennifer says. “But my role is also evolving to help our more urban neighbors understand the issues our Kansas farmers face in bringing the food and fiber to their store shelves.”

She spends her time gardening, crafting, watching K-State football, and cheering on her nephews and niece in their 4-H projects. She can be found on Twitter at @Latzke.

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