Avian Influenza

ISDA has information on Avian Influenza cases in Idaho.

USDA has information on Avian Influenza (HPAI) cases in the United States.

What is Avian Influenza (AI)?
Avian influenza (AI) is an infection caused by the most common type of influenza virus – influenza type A – which can infect poultry and be carried by waterfowl. There are two levels of severity for AI – low pathogenic and high pathogenic.

  • Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI)– these virus strains are deadly to domestic poultry and can spread rapidly from flock to flock. This is a reportable disease. Disease progression can be slow and mild in waterfowl.
  • Low pathogenicity avian influenza (LPAI)– these virus strains are most likely to be carried by wild migratory waterfowl and shorebirds without causing illness. LPAI can infect domestic poultry. Symptoms are usually milder.

What are the signs of infection?
Domestic poultry may have mild to severe signs of sickness, such as decreased egg production, swollen face and combs, respiratory congestion, petechial hemorrhages on the legs, and ruffled feathers. Depending on the pathogenicity of the virus, more than half of the infected domestic birds may die. Other symptoms include:

  • Lack of energy and appetite
  • Soft- or thin-shelled or misshapen eggs
  • Purple discoloration of the wattles, comb, and legs
  • Gasping for air (difficulty breathing)
  • Coughing, sneezing, and/or nasal discharge (runny nose)
  • Stumbling or falling down
  • Diarrhea

Wild waterfowl may carry the virus in their intestinal tract, but they don’t typically have outward symptoms of infection.

How is AI transmitted?
AI can be transmitted through direct contact with saliva, nasal secretions and/or feces from an infected animal. The virus is also carried on objects such as tools, vehicles, clothes and boots, which can transfer the virus from one location to another.

Am I required to test for AI?
If your flock has been within 3 miles (5 kilometers) of an infected flock or has suspected exposure to an infected flock you will be contacted by ISDA or USDA to get your flock tested. Otherwise there is no mandatory testing required by the state of Idaho, except for members of the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP). The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) also has a surveillance program in place for AI.

What can I do to prevent AI in my flock?
Participation in USDA’s voluntary surveillance program  or the NPIP program, as well as following good biosecurity practices can help you identify infection in your flock.

What do I do if my flock is positive?
Positive flocks must be reported to ISDA as soon as they are identificed. These flocks are depopulated and facilities are required to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

Can AI be passed to humans?
Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
There is no evidence that any human cases of avian influenza have been acquired by eating properly-cooked poultry products.

As a general precaution, people should avoid wild birds and observe them only from a distance; avoid contact with domestic birds (poultry) that appear ill or have died; and avoid contact with surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from wild or domestic birds. People who have had contact with infected birds may also be given influenza antiviral drugs preventatively.

It is uncommon for humans to become infected, but symptoms may include conjunctivitis, fever, lethargy, aches, coughing, or diarrhea. Signs and symptoms could be similar to other respiratory diseases also circulating in the community; if you think you are ill, talk to your healthcare provider. Health care providers evaluating patients with possible HPAI H5 infection should notify their local or state health departments which in turn should notify CDC. CDC is providing case-by-case guidance at this time. 

Resources for Veterinarians
If you see any avian patient that you suspect has avian influenza call ISDA Animal Industries (208) 332-8540 and ask to speak with one of our veterinarians immediately so that we can give you further information on testing the animal. If the case meets certain criteria as determined by state veterinarians, birds may be tested by the state at no cost.  Any interest in testing for HPAI must be communicated with ISDA prior to sample submission.  Submissions can go to the Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (UVDL) or the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (WADDL).

Veterinarians and clinic staff should direct concerned bird owners to the Avian Influenza Flow Chart. This chart directs some bird owners to our Avian Influenza Screen. Once the screen is submitted, an ISDA veterinarian will review the screen to determine if ISDA assistance is needed. Direct assistance from ISDA will be dependent on the severity and size of the flock as well as the availability of ISDA veterinarians. We appreciate any support you and your staff can provide to concerned bird owners whose flocks do not meet ISDA criteria.

For concerns regarding AI (or other diseases) in wild birds, contact your regional Idaho Department Fish and Game office or report sick or dead wild bird observations here.

If you have a question that is not covered here, please contact us.

Avian Influenza is a reportable disease in Idaho.

Logo of the Idaho State Department of Agriculture with a farmhouse and fields.

Avian Influenza Screen

Concerned your flock may be infected? Complete this form and ISDA will contact you if needed.

USDA information on and resources for Avian Influenza.

CDC Bird Flu resources for human infection

Contact IDFG for concerns about AI in wild bird populations.