Avian Influenza

Avian influenza (AI) is a viral disease mainly affecting birds. The virus occurs as both low pathogenic (LPAI) and highly pathogenic (HPAI) forms based on how sick they make poultry, such as chickens and turkeys. Chickens and turkeys with LPAI may not show any signs of illness or they may show mild signs such as sneezing, coughing and discharge from their eyes or beak. Chickens and turkeys with HPAI may have difficulty breathing or die suddenly. 

Waterfowl, such as ducks and geese, can naturally carry LPAI and most commonly do not show any signs of being ill. Domestic poultry that become sick with LPAI may display the following: 

  • Minor sneezing or coughing
  • Minor discharge from eyes or beak
  • Decreased food and water intake
  • Decreased egg production
  • Deformed eggs

If wild ducks and geese come into contact with chickens and turkeys they can give them LPAI. Once chickens and turkeys are infected with LPAI, there is a chance the disease can become more severe, changing into HPAI. Domestic poultry that become sick with HPAI may display the following: 

  • Severe lethargy
  • Severe difficulty breathing
  • Blood tinged discharge from eyes or beak
  • Unfeathered skin appearing blue on the head, comb and wattle (and snood in turkeys)
  • Swollen combs, wattle, or shanks
  • Decreased food and water intake
  • Decreased egg production
  • Deformed or shell-less eggs
  • Sudden death

A laboratory test is needed to confirm if a bird is sick with AI. Anyone who suspects that birds under their care have AI should immediately contact a Federal or State Animal Health Official. 

Avian influenza usually does not infect people, however rare cases in people have been reported. Infected birds shed avian influenza in their saliva, mucous and feces. Human infections can happen when enough virus gets into a person’s eyes, nose or mouth, or is inhaled. This is one reason why everyone should practice proper biosecurity when around birds. For more information about avian influenza in people, contact the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Information for Producers

There are vaccines for AI but the best way to protect your birds from AI is to implement good biosecurity measures on your farm, and to stop wild birds from coming into contact with your birds. Learn more about biosecurity here

General Resources

Preparedness Resources

Information for Veterinarians

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) both classify AI as a reportable animal disease. Anyone within Iowa that knows of a bird with AI, that was exposed to AI, or is displaying clinical signs of AI is legally required to promptly report it the State Veterinarian.

Resources