A case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has been confirmed in a wild American wigeon in Colleton County, South Carolina, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced late Friday afternoon.
This is the first time the virus, Eurasian H5 HPAI, has been detected in a wild bird in the United States since 2016, APHIS said in a news release. There was a case of HPAI (H7N3) in one commercial meat turkey flock in South Carolina in 2020 due to a North American lineage virus, the agency said.
APHIS advised anyone involved with poultry production from the small backyard to the large commercial producer to review their biosecurity activities to assure the health of their birds. The agency said it has materials about biosecurity, including videos, checklists, and a toolkit available here.
In addition to practicing good biosecurity, all bird owners should prevent contact between their birds and wild birds and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to state or federal officials, either through their state veterinarian or through USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593, APHIS said in its news release.
Avian influenza is caused by an influenza type A virus, which can infect poultry such as chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, domestic ducks, geese, and guinea fowl and is carried by free-flying waterfowl such as ducks, geese and shorebirds. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk to humans from HPAI H5 infections to be low, APHIS said in its news release.
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The last time the U.S. experienced a major outbreak of the virus was in 2015 when a strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza, H5N2, swept through the Midwest in spring of that year. Nationally, the virus led to the death of more than 48 million chickens and turkeys on 223 farms across 21 states; 42 million chickens and 7.5 million turkeys were euthanized.
More than 30 countries ended up banning poultry exports from infected states in 2015, and a few countries banned all U.S. poultry products.
As a result of H5N2, egg production fell roughly 9% in 2015 from 2014 figures nationally. Turkey production fell 4% from 2014, though Minnesota, the nation’s largest turkey-producing state, saw production fall 12% because of the virus.
To read the full APHIS news release, see here.