HPAI continues to lurk: Michigan’s wild birds and the silent spread

New cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI, have not been reported by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development since December 2023, but the virus continues to be detected throughout the United States and in Michigan’s wild bird population. HPAI is is extremely contagious and can spread through multiple channels from one group of birds to another. These transmission routes include interactions with wild birds, direct contact with infected poultry, contamination via equipment, and even transfer on the clothing and footwear of caretakers.

On February 24, 2022, MDARD reported the state’s initial case of HPAI within a domestic flock. Subsequently, the department received over 280 calls related to potential disease cases, prompting 93 investigations. These inquiries led to the identification of 29 infected flocks across various settings:

  • 23 of these flocks were backyard flocks.
  • 3 cases occurred in hunting preserves.
  • 3 cases were detected in commercial flocks.

These instances were distributed across 18 counties spanning both the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan.

This year, MDARD has already received reports concerning ill or deceased domestic birds. Two suspected cases have undergone thorough investigation and both have been ruled out as HPAI.

Domestic bird owners and caretakers should remain vigilant for the following signs in their flocks:

  • Multiple sudden deaths within the flock.
  • A noticeable drop in egg production.
  • Significant decrease in water consumption.
  • Diarrhea among the birds.
  • Sneezing or coughing.
  • An increase in sick birds.

If avian influenza is suspected in domestic birds, it is crucial to contact MDARD immediately. During daytime hours, call 800-292-3939, and for after-hours assistance, dial 517-373-0440.

For wild birds, if you observe unusual or unexplained deaths, report these cases to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Disease Laboratory at 517-336-5030.

Your prompt reporting helps monitor and address potential health concerns among wild bird populations.