Avian Influenza Found in West Virginia Backyard Flock

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) has received confirmation for the presence of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in a backyard flock in Kanawha County. A field investigation with sampling followed by testing at WVDA’s Animal Health NAHLN lab in Moorefield provided suspect laboratory findings. The owner contacted WVDA Animal Health after rapid onset of illness and mortalities in a multi-species poultry flock. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) has confirmed HPAI virus. This finding is the first case of HPAI in West Virginia domestic birds for the current worldwide HPAI outbreak that started in the U.S. in early 2022. There have been two previous wild bird HPAI findings in WV. 

“Our staff took immediate action to contain this disease and will continue to work with poultry owners to protect against its spread,” said West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt. “Poultry is West Virginia’s number one agricultural commodity. It is vital we initiate emergency action plans to protect our industries.”

Avian influenza is an airborne respiratory virus that spreads easily among chickens through nasal and eye secretions, as well as manure. The virus can be spread in various ways from flock to flock, including by wild birds, through contact with infected poultry, by equipment and on the clothing and shoes of caretakers.

“While the virus has been previously identified in surrounding states, it is important to note that the risk of transmission to humans is low and limited to those with direct contact with the birds,” said West Virginia State Health Officer Dr. Matthew Christiansen, M.D., M.P.H. ““If you have concerns about your exposure or symptoms, you should isolate at home and contact your primary care doctor and local health department.” 

Additional guidance for precautions against the virus may be found at Prevention and Antiviral Treatment of Bird Flu Viruses in People | Avian Influenza (Flu) (cdc.gov)

Avian influenza does not affect poultry meat or egg products, which remain safe to eat. WVDA and partner agencies, including the USDA, are working to contain the situation. However, it is routine for public health officers to be in contact with the people involved and provide human monitoring.

“Currently, this appears to be an isolated case, with no reports of disease among our commercial chicken and turkey industries. West Virginia poultry is safe to eat, and consumers can be confident in the safety of their food,” said Leonhardt.

The farm is under quarantine to stop the spread of avian influenza to other flocks in the state. The birds and eggs on the farm will not enter the food system. West Virginia poultry producers are encouraged to increase biosecurity to prevent the spread of the disease. Producers should take the following actions.

  • Limit, monitor and record any movement of people, vehicles, or animals on or off the farm.
  • Permit only essential workers and vehicles to enter the farm to limit the chances of bringing the virus from an outside source.
  • Avoid visiting other poultry farms and any unnecessary travel off the farm.
  • Disinfect equipment, vehicles, footwear, and other items that are in contact with flocks.
  • Keep your flock away from wild or migratory birds, especially waterfowl.
  • Isolate any ill animals and contact your veterinarian.

World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH) classification for this case has been determined to be not in commerce, thus there should be no trade restrictions for this finding in a backyard flock.

For more information on HPAI see the USDA’s Defend the Flock program at: USDA APHIS | Defend the Flock Program.

Poultry owners should immediately report unusual death loss, a drop in egg production or any sick domestic birds to WVDA’s Animal Health Division at 304-558-2214.