UW-Madison: Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Lab monitoring bird flu outbreak

CONTACT: Keith Poulsen, (608) 335-1830, [email protected]

MADISON – On Monday, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) confirmed an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in a commercial poultry flock in Jefferson County.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (WVDL) is working with DATCP to continue monitoring for the H5N2 virus. Immediately following the outbreak, the department confirmed the affected Wisconsin poultry facility was quarantined.

“This virus can be devastating to the poultry industry and we are cooperating with DATCP in order to test premises to make sure they are free of disease,” says Kathy Toohey-Kurth, virology section head at WVDL.

The H5N2 virus is not known to cause illness in humans but it is highly lethal in domestic poultry. This year, outbreaks of the virus have already killed hundreds of thousands of commercial turkeys in the Midwest, including on nine farms in Minnesota. The Wisconsin outbreak involved a commercial chicken facility, according to DATCP.

Migrating birds can introduce the virus as they pass through the state. Most wild waterfowl can carry the virus but do not become sick. However, Toohey-Kurth says raptors – such as hawks and falcons – are highly vulnerable to the virus and care should be taken to prevent its spread, which includes avoiding contact with wild birds. Anyone who encounters dead raptors should report the finding to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Toohey-Kurth says.

Several measures can also be taken to protect smaller backyard flocks, including keeping poultry out of contact with wild birds and not mingling poultry flocks. A complete list of measures can be found on the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service division of the United States Department of Agriculture website (http://healthybirds.aphis.usda.gov/) or DATCP’s Avian Influenza site (http://datcp.wi.gov/Animals/Animal_Diseases/Avian_Influenza/). The DATCP website also provides more information about avian influenza and the current outbreak in Wisconsin.