Q: All about Avian Influenza disease
A: The idea of "Bird Flu" (Avian Influenza) may strike fear in the minds of many chicken keepers because of past outbreaks in Asia. When fear is involved, it is difficult to think rationally, so it's a good idea to get informed! Knowledge is power, right? The Centers for Disease Control remind us that "No animal or human infections with Asian H5N1 virus have occurred in the United States." Hopefully, we'll keep it that way! You can find out more about this disease below:
AI, Bird Flu, Avian flu
Dangerous types are rare in the US
General signs -
LPAI may occasionally present no symptoms, or very mild symptoms. Respiratory symptoms such as coughing; sneezing; darkened comb/wattles, swelling of the head/eyes, nasal discharge. Other symptoms include lethargy, loose droppings, drop in laying. Sudden death can occur.
Cardinal or diagnostic signs
Several strains of influenza viruses. Most are "low pathenogenic" types---LPAI---and not particularly dangerous. Some are "high pathenogenic" types---HPAI---and are cause for concern.
Communicability to humans
Technically, humans could potentially be vulnerable various high pathenogenic types, but that has never happened in the US. HPAI has been detected four times in U.S. poultry: in 1924, 1983, 2004, and 2015. The 2004 outbreak was quickly eradicated, as was the 2015 outbreak. No human illness resulted from any of these outbreaks.
As little as a few hours to three or four days
Occasionally some birds can become carriers and shed virus during times of stress
Yes, but especially common in flocks crowded into small areas, such as large commercial flocks or small pet flocks staying in the coop during winter.
Home treatment and/or prevention
Prevention: Practice good biosecurity. Make sure to quarantine any birds showing signs of respiratory infection. Vaccinations are being developed but are not commonly available at the time of this writing.
Treatment: None. Still, making sure the sick birds are not subject to other stressors can reduce mortality. For instance, make sure sick birds have access to an area that is sufficiently warm (or cool).
A vet may prescribe antibiotics to stave off secondary infections while birds recover; however, no medication exists for the avian flu virus itself. HPAI and some subtypes of LPAI are reportable illnesses, meaning the USDA must be notified in order to prevent large outbreaks.
Most birds recover, but mortality can approach 100% with HPAI, or even with LPAI if the birds are stressed
Other conditions, illnesses and/or diseases with similar signs:
Can be mistaken for other respiratory infections or conditions like Coryza, CRD, Newcastle, or Laryngotracheitis.
Also consider browsing through this list of other chicken illnesses with respiratory symptoms.