Avian influenza reaches Northeast Michigan, threatens poultry flocks

News Photo by Julie Riddle Presque Isle County resident Renee Roeske feeds chickens at Roeske’s home near Hawks on Thursday.

ALPENA — Keep your eyes on the birds, health officials advise.

A nationwide outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza has made its way to Northeast Michigan, with health officials on Thursday reporting the discovery of the sickness in a wild bird in Presque Isle County.

The highly infectious avian influenza, often called bird flu, was detected in a bald eagle that was submitted to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources after appearing ill, according to a District Health Department No. 4 representative.

That news could make local farmers and hobby chicken enthusiasts worry.

The sickness that can quickly infect and kill birds, especially domestic poultry, raptors, and waterfowl, can spread from flock to flock transmitted by wild birds or on equipment, clothing, or shoes of caretakers who have come into contact with infected birds, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said.

News Photo by Julie Riddle Presque Isle County resident Renee Roeske watches chickens in an enclosure at Roeske’s home near Hawks on Thursday.

The agency strongly urges bird owners to take every precaution to keep wild birds away from their flocks.

Presque Isle County resident Renee Roeske, whose daughter raises chickens at their rural home, said the family was alarmed by news of the sickness’s spread into Michigan.

Its presence in the county is worrisome for people with backyard flocks, she said.

She’ll take down her bird feeders to discourage wild birds that might carry the sickness to her chickens, Roeske said.

The family has tried to keep sparrows and other songbirds out of the chicken’s enclosure but with no success.

News Photo by Julie Riddle Big Toe the rooster struts in the chicken enclosure at the home of Renee Roeske of Presque Isle County on Thursday.

MDARD recommends that bird owners enclose their flocks away from wild birds if possible, disinfect boots and other gear and equipment often, and secure feed to keep it away from other birds and rodents.

Residents without domestic poultry can help slow the spread of the sickness by temporarily removing backyard bird feeders, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources said.

Those choosing to leave bird feeders up should clean them regularly and remove fallen seed to discourage birds from congregating, the DNR said.

Humans cannot get avian influenza by eating properly cooked poultry products but can contract the sickness from exposure to sick birds, though such bird-to-human infection is rare, health officials said.

Exposed individuals need to watch for symptoms of influenza for 10 days after their last exposure to the infected birds.

Low pathogenic avian influenza, a more common type of the sickness, causes mild symptoms in birds and does not pose a significant threat to human health, according to the DNR.

During the last national bird flu outbreak, in 2015, geese in Macomb County tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza, the only time the sickness has previously been detected in Michigan, according to the DNR.

Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693 or jriddle@thealpenanews.com. Follow her on Twitter @jriddleX.

Bird flu symptoms

Domestic bird owners and caretakers should watch for unusual deaths, a drop in egg production, a significant decrease in water consumption, or an increase in sick birds. Owners should immediately report suspected avian influenza in domestic birds to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development at 800-292-3939 (daytime) or 517-373-0440 (after-hours).

Unusual or unexplained deaths among wild bird populations may be reported to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Disease Laboratory at 517-336-5030.

Residents may also report suspected sickness in wild birds via DNR’s Eyes in the Field reporting page at michigan.gov/eyesinthefield, where people can share observations about diseased wildlife, poaching, or other wildlife or parks issues.


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