Bird influenza cases spreading across Michigan; latest is in Oakland County

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Michigan agriculture and wildlife experts said Friday highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has been detected in at least nine Michigan counties in the past two months, most recently in a non-commercial backyard poultry flock from Oakland County.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory said while cooler temperatures and damp conditions continue, the risk for disease remains high and bird owners should take steps to protect their flocks.

HPAI is viewed as a highly contagious virus that can be spread in various ways from flock to flock, including by wild birds, through contact with infected poultry, equipment, and on the clothing and shoes of caretakers.

Josiah Meck holds a chick at Honey Brook Farm in Schuylkill Haven, Pa., on Monday, April 18, 2022. At least 30 states including Michigan have reported cases of the bird influenza.

To protect other flocks in Michigan, the Oakland County premises is currently under quarantine, and the birds will be depopulated to prevent disease spread, officials said. The affected flock contained about 40 birds of different species.

“At this time, HPAI continues to mainly be spread through the migration of wild birds,” State Veterinarian Dr. Nora Wineland said in release. “It is important for bird owners to stop this route of transmission by keeping their flocks away from bodies of water wild birds could visit, bringing their flocks indoors, and following other protocols to prevent the virus from being introduced to their birds.

“Every preventative action that is taken makes an impact,” Wineland said. “At MDARD, we will continue to swiftly contain this disease and help protect against its spread.”

In Michigan, the avian influenza has been detected in Branch, Kalamazoo, Livingston, Macomb, Menominee, Oakland, Saginaw, Washtenaw and Wexford counties. Because of bird migrations and flight patterns, it is believed to be likely in other Michigan counties. At least 30 states have reported cases of the bird influenza.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there was a “very low” risk to humans from the avian influenza, said Eric Hilliard, a wildlife spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

“There is not concern for human or for backyard bird feeders people like to put up,” Hilliard said Friday. “But the emphasis is in protecting domestic poultry, keeping them in their coops as much as possible to keep them from gathering with wild birds.”

Hilliard and others stressed steps are being taken so no birds or bird products infected with HPAI will enter the commercial food chain. People are encouraged to use caution when selecting food for themselves and their families as well as to properly handle and cook all poultry and eggs.

Agriculture and wildlife experts are suggesting preventative measures to protect Michigan domestic birds, including:

  • Prevent contact between domestic and wild birds by bringing them indoors or ensuring their outdoor area is fully enclosed.  
  • Wash your hands before and after handling birds as well as when moving between different coops.  
  • Disinfecting boots and other gear when moving between coops.  
  • Do not share equipment or other supplies between coops or other farms.  
  • Cleaning and disinfecting equipment and other supplies between uses. If it cannot be disinfected, discard it.  
  • Using well or municipal water as drinking water for birds.  
  • Keep poultry feed secure to ensure there is no contact between the feed/feed ingredients and wild birds or rodents.  

The state agriculture department is continuing to work with local, state, and federal partners to quickly respond to reports of sick or dead domestic birds to best reduce the spread of HPAI and provide outreach.

People are encouraged to report any unusual bird deaths or activity to local wildlife officers or the main office at (517) 336-5030, Hilliard said.

“People are advised not to touch the birds without gloves, or better yet, using a shovel to place it in a bag and then contact one of our offices,” he said.

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(248) 338-0319