Catawba County on Guard Against the Bird Flu!

— Written By Glenn Detweiler and last updated by
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You may have heard of a bird flu going around that is threatening chickens in backyards and even large commercial flocks. Fortunately, no human cases of these avian influenza viruses have been detected in the United States and this disease does not present an immediate public health concern, or food safety issue. (Of course, as always, cook poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 ˚F to kill bacteria and viruses). Affected flocks do not go to market anyway, and happily, we have no indication of the disease in Catawba County.

Much to the surprise of many Catawba County residents, our county produces 11,300,000 broilers/year and 79,000 layers/year in our large bird houses, not counting those in our backyards and smaller farms. You probably are not aware of this huge local industry, because our professional producers are so cautious to isolate the birds, in order to protect against outbreaks just like the current one affecting other areas.

Testing by the USDA has confirmed the presence of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) virus in at least 7 states already this year. This virus first created problems for us in 2016. Now migrating waterfowl in South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, and Maryland have tested positive in recent weeks. A commercial flock of turkeys in Indiana has tested positive. On Valentine’s Day, broiler flocks in Kentucky and Virginia tested positive. Our Catawba County professional poultry producers are on guard and doing what needs to be done, just as State Veterinarian Mike Martin advises; “Wild birds can carry this virus without sickness and potentially spread it to domestic poultry. We strongly encourage all poultry owners to follow strict biosecurity measures for at least the next 30 days, which is the time frame these birds are anticipated to be migrating through the state.”

“Backyard” chicken producers should practice proper biosecurity protocols to keep domestic flocks away from areas frequented by migratory birds, all waterfowl, and other wild birds. Poultry owners should keep their flock away from ponds where they might encounter migrating birds. Other things to consider at this time include: covering the top of any open or screened runs with metal and/or plastic to prevent wild bird droppings from falling into the bird area, water, or feed. Remove wild bird feeders or distance them from any backyard flocks as much as possible. Also, if your birds are more confined than usual, consider adding forms of enrichment to discourage birds from pecking one another such as tree branches, cabbage, melons, pecking blocks, hanging aluminum pie pans, etc. Keeping your birds isolated from other people and animals in an enclosed environment is ideal. The main point here is – do not allow free access to the outdoors in a way that is unprotected.

HPAI could wipe out the entire flock when infected. In addition to routine biosecurity protocols, information about biosecurity (including videos, checklists, and a toolkit) is available at:

All bird owners are encouraged to know the warning signs of Avian Influenza and implement steps to protect their flock.

The warning signs of HPAI include:
•     Reduced energy, decreased appetite, and/or decreased activity
•     Lower egg production and/or soft-shelled or misshapen eggs
•     Swelling of the head, eyelids, comb and wattles
•     Purple discoloration of the wattles, comb and legs
•     Difficulty breathing, runny nares (nose), and/or sneezing
•      Twisting of the head and neck, stumbling, falling down, tremors and/or circling
•     Greenish diarrhea

If your birds are sick or dying, report it right away to your local veterinarian, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Veterinary Division at 919-707-3250, or the N.C. Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System at 919-733-3986.

Call Area Livestock Extension Agent, Glenn Detweiler at 828-465-8240 or go to our website: to find more info or read more at: