Health, Sci-Tech

Highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza confirmed in Maryland



ANNAPOLIS, MD—Federal laboratory testing has confirmed a case of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza (HPAI) on a Maryland poultry farm.

Following an investigation by the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratory confirmed a Cecil County sample tested positive for HPAI. The Maryland case comes one week after a HPAI positive in Delaware.

Following the Delaware case, Maryland and its federal and state partners have greatly expanded their surveillance sampling and testing regimen to better protect the poultry industry on the Delmarva Peninsula. To prevent the spread of the virus, depopulation of the affected birds has begun in Cecil County; nothing from the facility will enter the supply chain. The index farm is under a strict quarantine; only authorized personnel will be allowed on the premise.

“Avian influenza does not affect poultry meat or egg products, which remain healthy and safe to eat and handle. All poultry growers, operators, and owners, including those who manage backyard flocks, must remain vigilant,” said Maryland Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder. “MDA, USDA and other partner agencies are working diligently to address and localize the situation, including quarantining and testing nearby flocks.”

Avian influenza is a highly contagious airborne respiratory virus that spreads easily among birds through nasal and eye secretions, as well as manure. The virus can be spread in various ways from flock to flock, including by wild birds, through contact with infected poultry, by equipment, and on the clothing and shoes of caretakers. This virus affects poultry, like chickens, ducks, and turkeys, along with some wild bird species such as ducks, geese, shorebirds, and raptors. It has appeared sporadically over the last several decades in bird populations throughout the globe. Wild birds can carry the virus without becoming sick, while domesticated birds can become very sick. HPAI is not a public health concern.

Maryland growers should take the following precautions to protect their flocks:



  • Restrict access to poultry by posting “Restricted Access” signage, securing the area with a locked gate, or both.
  • Ensure that contaminated materials on the ground are not transported into the poultry growing house or area.
  • Provide footbaths and foot mats with disinfectant, boot washing and disinfectant station, and footwear change or foot covers to anyone entering or leaving any area where poultry are kept:
  • Cover and secure feed to prevent wild birds, rodents, or other animals from accessing it.
  • Cover and properly contain used litter, or other disease-containing organic materials to prevent wild birds, rodents, or other animals from accessing them, and keep them from being blown around by the wind.
  • Allow MDA to enter the premises during normal working hours to inspect your biosecurity and sanitation practices. Maintain a log of those who access egg and poultry houses.
  • Report any unusual or sudden increases in sick birds to the MDA Animal Health Program at 410-841-5810 or 410-841-5971. Also contact the USDA at 866-536-7593.
  • Read up about HPAI and biosecurity measures on the MDA website.

Commercial chicken growers, backyard flock owners can email questions about the outbreak to MD.Birdflu@maryland.gov. In addition, the USDA’s Defend the Flock website has information on ways to help mitigate the risk of avian influenza, including instructional videos, additional biosecurity measures, and photos that show the signs of illness.

Photo via Pixabay

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