Wednesday, November 22, 2017 by Janine Acero
The most severe outbreak of the avian influenza – commonly known as bird flu – in the U.S. happened in 2015. The occurrence triggered a wave of alarm for both consumers and poultry farmers. Since then, the price of eggs alone has increased by 58 percent, and grocery stores and restaurants have increased the cost of poultry products to restrict consumption. The outbreak has likewise affected owners of backyard chickens and large consumers of poultry alike, so it’s best to take proactive measures.
There is currently no solution or cure to this disease, so preventing it in the first place is the best option. If you are an owner of backyard chickens, here are five strategies to ensure that your flock remains healthy amid this deadly outbreak:
There are numerous different strains of avian influenza, most of which do not cause illness in humans. The strains that have been affecting the nation are the H5N1 and the H5N8 viruses. H5N1, in particular, is known to have a high potential to initiate a pandemic. (Related: Pandemic bird flu virus just three mutations away, warn scientists.)
H5N1 can infect birds and other animals, causing diseases that affect multiple internal organs with mortality up to 90 to 100 percent, often within 48 hours.
Humans can get infected through touching their eyes, nose, or mouth after direct contact with an infected bird or prolonged contact with its droppings or mucus. Interestingly, wild fowl do not get sick even after being exposed to the same conditions.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Domesticated birds (chickens, turkeys, etc.) may become infected with avian influenza A viruses through direct contact with infected waterfowl or other infected poultry, or through contact with surfaces that have been contaminated with the viruses.
“These viruses occur naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species. Wild aquatic birds can be infected with avian influenza A viruses in their intestines and respiratory tract, but usually do not get sick.”
As previously mentioned, there are some individuals that don’t get sick even when infected with bird flu, primarily wild fowl. These birds live in natural habitats and feed on natural diets, developing a strong immune system against bacteria and viruses, as opposed to domesticated fowl that are confined in warehouse-style facilities called Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) where they are crowded together by the thousands. They are also fed genetically engineered grains and are given antibiotics to control disease and induce weight gain.