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Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza detected in Kentucky: UK specialists urge vigilance to protect poultry from bird flu

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza detected in Kentucky: UK specialists urge vigilance to protect poultry from bird flu

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza detected in Kentucky: UK specialists urge vigilance to protect poultry from bird flu

Bird flu is a concern for the state’s largest agriculture commodity contributor.

Lexington, Ky.—

Recent tests have confirmed the presence of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in two deceased snow geese found in Henderson County. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assures that the risk to human health remains low. However, as the infected birds are migratory, the outbreak poses a significant threat to poultry within the state, affecting both large and small flocks.

University of Kentucky Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment animal science experts offer tips to keep producers’ poultry safe. 

"This is a concern for anyone with a poultry flock," said Jacqueline Jacob, UK Department of Animal and Food Science agriculture extension project manager. "It is important for every poultry flock owner to review their biosecurity program and ensure all the steps are followed.” 

Understanding Avian Influenza: 

Avian Influenza (AI), or bird flu, is an influenza type A virus affecting various bird species, including poultry and wild birds. Classified based on their pathogenicity, Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza strains, such as the one currently identified, are known for their rapid spread and high fatality rates in poultry. 

Signs of avian influenza include sudden death; little to no appetite or energy; little to no egg production; soft or deformed eggs; nasal discharge; coughing, sneezing or breathing difficulty; swelling around the head, neck and eyes; purple discoloration; loss of muscle control; drooping wings; twisting of the head and neck; inability to move and diarrhea. Birds may have the disease for three to seven days before they show signs, and death can occur between 24 and 48 hours after the first sign. 

Poultry owners, especially in Kentucky with its diverse range of poultry farms, are urged to adhere strictly to the outlined precautions and guidelines. 

Key precautions for handling wild game: 

With waterfowl season still open, the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife urges hunters to follow routine precautions when handling wild game: 

  • Avoid harvesting or handling wild birds that appear sick or are found dead. 
  • Process harvested waterfowl in open, well-ventilated areas. 
  • Utilize gloves and practice hand hygiene post-handling, using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers. 
  • Clean and disinfect equipment that comes into contact with birds. 
  • Refrain from eating, drinking or smoking during the handling or cleaning of game birds. 
  • Securely dispose of bird remains, ensuring they are inaccessible to scavengers. 
  • Make certain all game meat is cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • Prevent dogs and cats from consuming raw or undercooked waterfowl meat. 

More information about HPAI and wild birds is available on Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s website at under Avian Influenza. 

Immediate Actions for Poultry Owners: 

Observe the "FLU" biosecurity and prevention guidelines:  

F—Flock observation—Early detection is important to stop the spread of disease. Growers need to observe flocks daily and note changes in appearance, behavior and drinking and eating habits. 

L—Limit traffic—Contaminated clothing and equipment can spread avian influenza between poultry premises. Keep a log of visitors and vehicles on the farm. Be aware of places visitors may have had contact with birds or their droppings such as hunting lands, ponds, pet stores, zoos and parks. Visitors can accidentally bring disease to the farm. 

U—Unwanted critters—avian influenza can be spread through the feces and bodily fluids of infected birds, so keep poultry from coming into contact with wild birds. 

Tony Pescatore, extension faculty and assistant UK Department of Animal and Food Sciences chair, said it’s a good idea to keep areas mowed around poultry houses and coops to control wild birds and rodents. Keep all other animals out of the chicken house. Growers should isolate new or returning birds from the rest of the flock for at least 30 days. 

If bird owners observe unusual symptoms or a large number of deaths in a flock, contact a local veterinarian or the Kentucky Department of Agriculture at or by phone at (502) 573-0282.   

Additional information on bird flu, including biosecurity tips for backyard flocks, can be found at  

UK animal science specialists are always working alongside the UK Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture's State Veterinarian office to demonstrate a committed alliance for the betterment of the commonwealth's agricultural and wildlife sectors.

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The Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment is an Equal Opportunity Organization with respect to education and employment and authorization to provide research, education information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without regard to economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, physical or mental disability or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity. 


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