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Ariana Gloria-Martinez: How to protect poultry from the highly pathogenic avian influenza now in Colorado


Recently, the Colorado Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife have confirmed the highly pathogenic avian influenza is here in Colorado.

Up to now, HPAI has been detected in wild waterfowl (across the state), a commercial flock (in Montrose and La Plata counties) and in one backyard flock (in Pitkin County).

This following information is not to scare or panic any poultry or bird owners, but rather to give useful information to best move forward in protecting your own flocks through taking strict biosecurity measures.

We at Colorado State University Extension are here as support and a resource to help you take the steps necessary to best protect your flocks from this highly contagious bird flu and answer any questions you may have.

What is HPAI?

HPAI is a serious poultry disease that spreads quickly and can infect wild birds (especially waterfowl), chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, domestic ducks, geese and guinea fowl. HPAI virus strains are extremely infectious, often fatal to chickens and turkeys, and can spread rapidly from flock to flock.

How is HPAI transmitted?

  • Foot traffic
  • Secretions from infected birds
  • Contact with infected droppings
  • Movement of sick birds
  • Contaminated clothing and equipment

Poultry with HPAI do not survive the illness. Vaccines for HPAI are not readily available.

Warning signs of HPAI

  • Sudden increase in bird deaths without any clinical signs
  • Lack of energy and appetite
  • Decrease in egg production
  • Soft-, thin-shelled or misshapen eggs
  • Swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattle and hocks
  • Purple discoloration of the wattle, comb and legs
  • Gasping for air (difficulty breathing)
  • Coughing, sneezing and/or nasal discharge (runny nose)
  • Stumbling or falling down
  • Diarrhea

How do I report suspected HPAI?

If your birds are sick or dying, report it right away. This is one of the most important things you can do to keep HPAI from spreading. Call:

  • Your flock or local veterinarian
  • The state veterinarian 303-869-9130, available 24 hours/day
  • The state avian health team 970-297-1281, only answered 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays
  • USDA sick bird line, toll-free at 1-866-536-7593

How to protect flocks

There are key biosecurity measures poultry-keepers can proactively take every day to protect flocks and prevent spreading this highly contagious disease.

  • Keep visitors to a minimum. Only allow those people who take care of your poultry to come in contact with your birds, including family and friends.
  • Wash your hands before and after coming in contact with live poultry. Wash with soap and water (always your first choice). If using hand sanitizer, first remove manure, feathers and other materials from your hands, because disinfectants will not penetrate organic matter or caked-on dirt.
  • Provide disposable boot covers (preferred) and/or disinfectant footbaths for anyone having contact with your flock. If using a footbath, be sure to remove all droppings, mud or debris from boots and shoes using a long-handled scrub brush before stepping into the disinfectant footbath, and always keep it clean.
  • Change clothes before entering poultry areas and before exiting the property.
  • Avoid attracting wild birds and waterfowl to your home. Cover and enclose outdoor feeding areas. Keep feed contained and feed in the coop. Reduce puddles and standing water. Avoid visiting ponds and streams, especially with pets.
  • Halt travel with your birds to sales, shows and swaps. Colorado has an emergency order issued from April 1 for 90 days, canceling all poultry shows, swaps or gatherings of birds from different premises.
  • Check out the CSU Extension-Boulder County HPAI website, which has even more HPAI information, resources and webinars:

Ariana Gloria-Martinez is the small acreage management coordinator for Colorado State University Extension Boulder County in Longmont.