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Avian Flu

Preventing spread of avian flu

A bird disease outbreak could not only harm or kill your birds, but spread quickly to birds on other farms. Six steps can help prevent it.

1. Keep your distance

Restrict access to your property and birds. Fence your birds and treat them as if infected, even if the birds seem healthy. Try to prevent people exposed to other birds from visiting yours; your birds' caretakers should avoid other birds. Visitors should first wash up and clean their shoes. (You might keep extra clean boots for visitors.) Try to keep an outdoor flock screened in, away from game birds and migratory waterfowl.

2. Stay clean

Keep some clothes and shoes to wear only near the birds. Otherwise, before approaching them, wash your hands with soap, water, and a disinfectant; change into laundered clothes; and scrub droppings, mud, and debris from your shoes, then disinfect. Clean cages and change food and water daily. Clean and disinfect equipment, scoops, shovels, rakes, and brooms that come in contact with birds or their droppings. Dispose of dead birds by burial, incineration or transport to a landfill (check local laws).

3. Don't haul disease home

If you visit other birds, or even the feed store, disinfect tires, cages, equipment, and other cargo before returning. After a show, quarantine birds for at least two weeks. Quarantine new birds for at least 30 days. Don't mix birds of different ages, species or sources.

4. Don't borrow disease

Don't share birds, garden equipment, tools, or poultry supplies. If you do, clean and disinfect them before bringing them home or returning them. Never share porous items such as wooden pallets or cardboard cartons; they can't be adequately disinfected.

5. Know the signs

Early detection is important. Watch for:

  • diarrhea
  • soft-shelled, misshapen eggs or decreased production
  • sneezing, gasping for air, nasal discharge, coughing
  • lack of energy and appetite
  • swelling of tissues around eyes and in neck
  • purple discoloration of wattles, combs, and legs
  • depression, muscle tremors, drooping wings, uncoordinated twisting of head and neck, paralysis
  • sudden death

6. Report quickly

Call your agricultural extension agent, local or state vet, or US Department of Agriculture Veterinary Services office. USDA's toll-free hotline -- (866) 536 7593 -- offers vets to test birds at no charge to make sure they don't have a serious disease.

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