GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Highly Patheogenic Avian Influenza, commonly referred to as bird flu, has already been detected in at least 27 states, including Michigan.
The disease is spread easily by wild birds, but can impact domesticated flocks, commercial farms and even humans in rare cases. It spans species, posing a danger to chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, ducks, geese, and guinea fowl.
“Wild birds, as they continue to migrate south to north, that’s going to spread the virus,” said Jennifer Holton, a spokesperson with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. “In late-February…the first case was detected in Kalamazoo County. So far we have five cases.”
The cases have been spread throughout the state, from Washtenaw County to Livingston County.
The John Ball Zoo told FOX17 on Monday that all their birds are in quarantine out of an abundance of caution. Holton says owners of pet birds, or hobby flocks should still be cautious despite only a handful of cases in the state.
“Stopping, to the extent possible, any co-mingling of wild birds in with your birds…keeping the food and the water separated out…washing your hands, such an easy step that we kind of all sometimes just forget,” said Holton.
She also recommends washing and disinfecting your gear before and after interacting with your backyard flock because the virus can live on clothing and equipment too.
All five cases of bird flu in Michigan this year have occurred in backyard flocks.
“So those folks who might have a hobby farm or have a few chickens for their family,” clarified Holton.
One group not seeing any issues so far has been the state’s commercial farms. Holton was clear that bird flu hasn’t been an issue for businesses responsible for raising chicken or producing eggs.
“The safety of our flocks and our employees is always our number one priority,” said a statemnt to FOX17 from Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch in Saranac, one of the state’s largest providers of eggs. “To ensure their safety, Herbruck’s has long required strict biosecurity measures at each of our facilities and we follow these protocols to the letter. There have been no detections of avian influenza at Herbruck’s facilities during this ongoing outbreak.”
According to the USDA, amid the bird flu outbreak, the price of eggs nationwide has nearly tripled since November.
BirdCast, a migration tracking group, shows migration patterns in Michigan right now are relatively low, which lessens the spread of the virus. As for when the threat could neutralize entirely, Horton says a long stretch of hot, dry weather should help immensely.
The last major outbreak of avian influenza was in 2015.