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HPAI detected in Michigan’s first commercial poultry flock

Credit: buhanovskiy/iStock/Thinkstock. broiler chickens
State cancels poultry exhibitions until further notice.

Following an investigation by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), the Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory has detected highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in a commercial turkey operation of 35,100 birds in Muskegon County. So far this year, Michigan has responded to 12 cases of HPAI in non-commercial backyard flocks from nine different counties across both the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. This is the first detection of HPAI in a commercial poultry operation in Michigan.

To protect other flocks in Michigan, the premises is currently under quarantine, and the birds have been depopulated to prevent disease spread.

“Before Michigan’s first detection of HPAI in backyard poultry in late February, MDARD has been preparing for all types of outbreak scenarios, including within a commercial setting, allowing the department to take swift action in partnership with the producer. The department has already identified a control area and surveillance zone to monitor for and prevent further spread of the virus,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Nora Wineland. “We will continue to ask every poultry owner, whether a backyard owner or commercial grower, to take preventative actions to help stop the spread of HPAI. It’s a team effort to defend the flocks in Michigan.”

Allison Brink, executive director of Michigan’s Allied Poultry Industries, commented, “Michigan’s family poultry farmers take the health of their flocks and neighbor farms seriously. By working together to limit the spread of HPAI, Michigan farmers are ensuring there is no disruption in the local turkey, chicken, or egg supply.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the public health risk associated with these avian influenza detections remains low.

“While human health risk is low regarding HPAI, Michigan’s 45 local health departments are working in conjunction with our state partners to monitor those at higher risk for exposure and help protect overall public health,” said Norm Hess, executive director of the Michigan Association for Local Public Health. “Local health officers are an essential part of emergency response, including HPAI, by monitoring and assisting responders to limit potential spread.”

Whether it’s a few backyard birds or a large commercial flock, MDARD said following a few key steps is fundamental to protect the health and vitality of Michigan’s domestic birds:

  • 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.

MDARD is continuing to work diligently with local, state, and federal partners to quickly respond to reports of sick or dead domestic birds to best mitigate the spread of HPAI and provide outreach.

Poultry exhibitions canceled

MDARD announced May 10 that 2022 poultry and waterfowl exhibitions in Michigan were canceled until the state goes 30 days without a new detection of HPAI in domestic poultry. The decision was effective immediately.

The stop does include (but is not limited to) shows, exhibitions, swap meets, petting zoos at fairs, and game bird/waterfowl fair displays. It does not include or affect egg hatching exhibits, pigeon races, or zoos.

“MDARD is committed to protecting the health of all Michigan’s domestic birds. Preventative measures are the best and only tools we have to limit the negative impact of HPAI. By exercising this necessary precaution, we can wait for the warmer, drier weather needed to kill the virus without creating conditions that could worsen the problem,” said Dr. Wineland. “By taking this step now, it is hoped that poultry exhibitors can still participate in fair activities once circumstances have improved.”

MDARD will continue to monitor the situation and work in conjunction with the Michigan Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, Michigan State University Extension, 4-H programs, and other partners to notify and advise exhibitors regarding when these activities can resume and how to conduct them safely.

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