A highly contagious disease that can result in sudden death has been confirmed in Michigan’s wild bird population in three counties, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), subtype H5N1, was identified in six Canada geese, two tundra swans, two snowy owls and a mute swan that were found dead in Macomb, Monroe and St. Clair counties. Testing by the US Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Lab confirmed the disease on Thursday, March 24; the mute swan case was confirmed on March 15.
The lab has also confirmed HPAI in a non-commercial backyard flock in Macomb County, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development announced today.
These new cases come after the state’s first avian influenza detection in a backyard, non-commercial poultry flock in Kalamazoo County in February. The disease has been found to infect backyard poultry flocks, commercial flocks and in wild birds.
“This second detection in domestic birds underscores the ongoing high risk for HPAI in Michigan, and poultry owners need to take every precaution to protect their flocks through biosecurity,” MDARD said.
MDARD is urging poultry owners to step up biosecurity precautions by minimizing the number of people in contact with birds, isolating their flock from wild birds, and disinfecting hands and clothing after contact with poultry.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk to people from avian influenza viruses to be low. To date, no human infections have been detected in the United States, according to the DNR.
With this type of HPAI, there may be an absence of routine signs of illness in domestic poultry. Sudden death and high death losses are major indicators. However, sick birds may experience neurological signs; difficulty walking; lack of appetite, energy or vocalization; significant drop in egg production; swollen combs, wattles, legs or head; diarrhea; or nasal discharge, sneezing or coughing.
The DNR and MDARD are working to limit the spread of the disease among the state’s wildlife and domestic poultry, DNR Director Dan Eichinger said.
The state’s wildlife HPAI plan was developed by DNR’s Wildlife Division in 2006 and updated in 2021. Guided by the plan, the DNR has canceled the roundup and relocation of Canada geese for the year; There will be limited exceptions where there are elevated human health and safety concerns.
With the cancellation of Canada goose roundup and relocation, the DNR is encouraging nest and egg destruction to resolve conflicts. The eligibility requirements for nest and egg destruction will be waived; there is no charge for permits for this activity.
Wild birds commonly have avian influenza and sometimes spread it to domestic birds through direct or indirect transmission. Ducks and geese are considered carriers; however, geese generally do not pass it on.
MDARD, the DNR, Michigan State University, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and the USDA’s veterinary and wildlife services are working together to conduct avian influenza surveillance and to monitor health of poultry, livestock, wildlife and residents in Michigan.
Residents who notice the death of three or more free-ranging birds should report it to the DNR through the Eyes in the Field app or by calling 517-336-5030. If a domestic poultry flock is experiencing severe illness or multiple deaths, contact MDARD at 800-292-3939.
For more information, go to Michigan.gov/BirdFlu, Michigan.gov/AvianInfluenza or Michigan.gov/AvianDiseases.