In a follow-up to a report last week, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) reports confirming H5N1 avian influenza- highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in wild birds in Colleton County, South Carolina (2) and Hyde County, North Carolina (1).
These findings are not unexpected, as wild birds can be infected with HPAI and show no signs of illness. They can carry the disease to new areas when migrating. APHIS anticipates additional wild bird findings as our robust wild bird sampling program continues into the spring.
Since wild birds can be infected with these viruses without appearing sick, people should minimize direct contact with wild birds by using gloves. If contact occurs, wash your hands with soap and water, and change clothing before having any contact with healthy domestic poultry and birds.
Hunters should dress game birds in the field whenever possible and practice good biosecurity to prevent any potential disease spread.
Avian influenza (AI) 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. AI viruses are classified by a combination of two groups of proteins: hemagglutinin or “H” proteins, of which there are 16 (H1–H16), and neuraminidase or “N” proteins, of which there are 9 (N1–N9). Many different combinations of “H” and “N” proteins are possible. Each combination is considered a different subtype and can be further broken down into different strains which circulate within flyways/geographic regions. AI viruses are further classified by their pathogenicity (low or high)—the ability of a particular virus strain to produce disease in domestic chickens.