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Delaware reports first case of avian influenza

Delaware reported its first case of avian influenza in a commercial flock in New Castle County. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed the case on February 23, and is working with state and federal officials to establish a quarantine radius and depopulate the flock. 

The USDA has not released what kind of bird or how many have been depopulated.

This finding is the first case of highly pathogenic avian influenza in commercial poultry in Delaware since 2004.

As a part of their efforts, state and federal officials are working on additional surveillance and testing in areas around the affected flock. According to the USDA, they are currently working with partners to test for the avian influenza in commercial poultry operations, live bird markets, and in migratory wild bird populations.

Avian influenza is an airborne respiratory virus that spreads easily among chickens through nasal and eye secretions, as well as manure. The virus can be spread in various ways from flock to flock, including by wild birds, through contact with infected poultry, by equipment, and on the clothing and shoes of caretakers.

To date, avian influenza has been reported in both poultry and non-poultry flocks in Indiana, Virginia, Kentucky, New York, and Maine. 

Signs of avian influenza include: birds dying without clinical signs; lack of energy; decreased egg production; soft-shelled or misshapen eggs; swelling or purple discoloration of the head, eyelids, comb, and hocks; nasal discharge; coughing; sneezing; incoordination; and diarrhea. The USDA has a resource with images to help identify discoloration and other clinical signs. 

If farmers have a bird they believe has passed away because of avian influenza, state officials encourage them to double bag the bird and refrigerate to preserve it for testing.

Avian influenza is not a foodborne illness and does not pose a food-safety risk.

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