A chicken.

Chickens are one of the birds most susceptible to avian flu. Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Attention bird owners: Avian influenza has been identified in a backyard flock within the boundaries of the City of Dallas, according to a District 9 newsletter.

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This virus can infect domestic poultry, fowl and birds, such as chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese.

Avian influenza, sometimes referred to as “avian flu” or “bird flu,” is transmitted from bird to bird through the air or through contaminated material. Risk of contracting the virus is increased with the movement of people, birds and equipment, as well as with exposure to migratory waterfowl.

The strain of avian flu detected in Dallas is classified as highly pathogenic, meaning it is more deadly to fowl compared to other strains of the virus.

Humans, in general, are not normally infected, but infection can occur with unprotected, direct contact with an infected bird. Risk of infection can be reduced by wearing gloves and face coverings while interacting with birds. The “highly pathogenic” status of the strain detected in Dallas does not mean the disease is more easily transmissible to humans.

The current strain of avian flu spreading across the country has left poultry supply at its lowest point going into winter since 2006, and it may affect the availability of turkey this Thanksgiving.

Here are some common symptoms of avian flu in birds:

  • Sudden death without clinical signs
  • Lack of energy and appetite
  • Decreased egg production
  • Soft-shelled or misshapen eggs
  • Nasal discharge
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Incoordination
  • Diarrhea
  • Swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles and hocks
  • Purple discoloration of the wattles, cobs and legs

To reduce the chances of birds becoming infected, here are a few things to do.

  1. Limit incoming and outgoing traffic on your property.
  2. Make sure equipment, tires and undercarriages of vehicles are disinfected before entering or leaving places where poultry are.
  3. Minimize the number of people coming into the area where poultry stay.
  4. Wear clean clothes and disinfect before and after working with poultry.
  5. Don’t let poultry flocks come into contact with migratory birds.
  6. Keep poultry away from bodies of water that wild birds could have contaminated.
  7. Try not to visit any other poultry farms. But if you have to, make sure to disinfect or change clothes and shoes before returning to your farm.
  8. Don’t bring any birds to your farm unless you know the flock of origin is healthy.

Report suspected and confirmed cases of avian flu to the Texas Animal Health Commission by calling 1-800-550-8242.