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Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza

chickens roosting in their coopThere is a nationwide Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) outbreak underway that began in the Pacific Northwest at the end of 2014. At this time, there is no evidence that the circulating viruses have infected people or made anyone ill. However, with these types of viruses, transmission from infected birds to a person that is in intimate contact with the sick bird or contaminated environment may occur. For this reason, NH DHHS is monitoring the situation in collaboration with the NH Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food (DAMF), the NH Department of Fish and Game (FG), and local representatives from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Aggressive control measures have been put in place across the nation wherever HPAI has been identified. There have been three viruses associated with the current outbreak, H5N1, H5N8 and H5N2. The H5N1 virus identified in the US is not the same virus that is causing human illness in other parts of the world. It is thought that the H5N8 virus originated in Asia and reassorted with North American Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI) viruses to create the HPAI viruses that are now affecting poultry flocks in the West and Midwest. Historically, the US has had well documented LPAI circulating in domestic and wild birds. There have been three previous outbreaks of HPAI in domestic birds, but this is the first time HPAI has been identified in wild birds and is considered a foreign animal disease. Avian influenza viruses are able to spread to new geographical areas through bird migration along flyways, domestic bird movement and movement of contaminated equipment or supplies from affected farms or flocks. More information about avian influenza and USDA's activities are available in this brochure Adobe Acrobat Reader Symbol.

It is strongly recommended that any person or facility that has poultry review their biosecurity protocols and measures. DAMF and the USDA have resources available or for order to help improve the biosecurity of both commercial and backyard flocks. Any person noticing respiratory illness or mortality in a commercial or backyard flocks should immediately contact their private veterinarian or the State Veterinarian at DAMF at (603) 271-2404.

If you are coming into contact with any wild birds, it is recommended that you use appropriate hygiene to minimize the risk of disease transmission of avian influenza or other diseases they may be carrying. More information can be found here: (insert link to "Biosecurity tips for handling wild birds"). Any ill, dying or dead wild water birds (ducks, geese, shore birds, etc.) or raptors (falcons, hawks, owls, etc.) should be reported to USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services Wildlife Services (USDA APHIS WS) state office at (603) 223-6832.

It should be noted that when reporting ill, dying or dead birds to either DAMF (domestic birds) or USDA APHIS WS (wild birds), phones are only staffed during regular business hours: Monday through Friday 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. Reporting of these birds may also be done through your local Cooperative Extension specialist.

During the duck hunting season, it is recommended that hunters use appropriate personal protective equipment when processing harvested water fowl, including the use of gloves and the avoidance of sick birds. Processing harvested waterfowl in the same area or on the same surfaces where you will be eating or preparing other foods is not recommended. NH Fish and Game has information about hunter safety and hunter education opportunities available on their website. More information may also be found in this fact sheet Adobe Acrobat Reader Symbol.

If a person feels ill with influenza-like symptoms after having had contact with wild or domestic poultry, including waterfowl, they should contact their healthcare provider.

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New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services
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