Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza update
April 8, 2022- MDAR issues Animal Health Order 958-AHO-22 to order the cancelation or postponement of all competitions, exhibitions, shows, swaps or other in-person events encouraging the gathering or commingling of domestic fowl or poultry in Massachusetts until further notice.
March 3, 2022: Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has been detected in wild birds in Massachusetts. Please see the Poultry Program page for more information.
Some of the USDA response information on this page is outdated. See updated information on the USDA HPAI Response Policy.
Protect your flock. See MDAR’s biosecurity recommendations.
High Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)
The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) has been working with its sister agencies and federal partners on establishing an emergency response plan for the introduction of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). Since mid-December 2014, there have been several ongoing HPAI incidents along the Pacific, Central and Mississippi Flyways. Due to the mixing of birds from different flyways up through Canada, it is likely that exposed birds will be found in the Atlantic Flyway during the current southern migration. These strains of the HPAI virus that have been identified in the US domestic poultry population in 25 Midwestern, Western, and Southern states over the past few years have not been found to affect humans. Ongoing, routine testing of wild birds and domestic poultry is being conducted and to date no HPAI has been found within Massachusetts. MDAR is seeking to educate poultry owners about the risk this virus poses to their birds in hopes that owners will take every precaution to prevent their flocks from being exposed. Additionally, the MDAR wants poultry owners to understand what will happen if their flock becomes infected.
HPAI is a deadly disease for poultry. It can infect all types of chickens, turkeys and many other kinds of birds. HPAI can strike suddenly and spread fast. Infected poultry may die within hours of becoming infected. The virus can be spread by contact with infected birds or contaminated materials.
There are a few simple steps bird owners can take to try to protect their flocks from avian influenza:
- Wild migratory birds are natural carriers for HPAI. Preventing wild birds from mixing with domestic flocks is essential to disease control. Poultry owners should assure their birds are kept away from wild birds, particularly waterfowl.
- Avoid unnecessary movement of poultry between locations and be aware of the potential to carry HPAI contaminated materials onto properties where birds are kept.
- New birds should be completely isolated for at least one month prior to being added into the flock. Birds that are returning home from fairs or shows should also be isolated from the home flock as if they were new arrivals.
- Limit the number of people that have access to your flock.
- Do not share equipment with other bird owners without thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting between locations.
- Create a written biosecurity plan by actually writing down the precautions you take. This will allow others to take the same precautions should someone else need to care for your birds.
The USDA takes the threat of HPAI very seriously. Sick birds produce a lot of virus, and quickly putting down infected and exposed birds can drastically reduce the spread of disease. The USDA has set a goal of depopulating any infected flock within 24 hours of virus detection. A program has been established by the USDA to compensate flock owners for any animals depopulated as part of the control efforts. This reimbursement does not apply to birds that die of the disease, so it is essential that flock owners notify the Department immediately upon signs of trouble. Owners of fancy or exotic birds should keep receipts and sales records that will help establish the value of your flock.
Although many strains of avian influenza can cause varying degrees of illness including respiratory illness, decreased feed consumption or decreased egg production, this particular outbreak has generally caused birds to die without any other signs of illness. Any unexpected deaths or other signs should be reported immediately to the Division of Animal Health at 617-626-1795 or through this online reporting form. Increased numbers of wild bird deaths should be reported to the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife using the online form found at mass.gov/reportbirds Prompt reporting will expedite rapid testing and diagnosis.
Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI)
Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI), is a respiratory disease of poultry, turkeys, game birds, and waterfowl. Symptoms of low pathogenic AI are typically mild and in many cases not present. The disease, however, can manifest itself through depression, decreased food consumption, respiratory signs (coughing and sneezing), and a decrease in egg production. More information on AI is available on the APHIS Website.
To help prevent the introduction of this disease into Massachusetts the Bureau of Animal Health is:
- Developing protocols for the importation of poultry into Massachusetts based on ongoing disease surveillance;
- Participating in the federal surveillance program for Live Bird Markets.
- Implementing increased biosecurity at rendering facilities and other poultry and poultry related activities;
The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS), has established a surveillance program for Avian Influenza and Exotic Newcastle Disease - AI/END. Diagnostic services are available through this program at no cost to the flock owner.
- Frequently Asked Questions About Avian Flu
- What to Expect If You Suspect
- HPAI: Understanding the Response Process
Flocks experiencing sudden mortality, respiratory symptoms, or swollen heads should contact the Department as soon as possible for assistance in the submittal of these birds to the laboratory for necropsy at 617-626-1795.
The risk of humans contracting HPAI from infected birds if very, very low. Humans that are most at risk of becoming infected are individuals that have prolonged close contact with sick or dead birds. More information can be found in this Frequently Asked Questions About Avian Flu document created by MDPH, MDAR, and MDFW.