State, USDA worked to contain bird flu in Berkshire County / iBerkshires.com

Highly contagious bird flu has been detected in nearly 30 states in the past three months, including a flock in Lanesborough in March.

LANESBOROUGH, Mass. – The US Department of Agriculture and several state agencies are working to contain an outbreak of bird flu in Berkshire County after samples from a flock of 240 birds in Lanesborough were confirmed to carry the late virus March.

The non-commercial flock contained ducks, chickens, geese, quail and turkeys, all of which are capable of becoming ill and spreading”highly pathogenic avian influenzaor IAHP. The state and USDA euthanized the herd and quarantined the area to prevent further spread.

Local officials declined to identify the herd’s location and referred inquiries to the state.

“It is important to note that avian influenza is a disease of birds, which can very rarely infect humans, said Troy Wall, deputy director of communications for the state office of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. . “And only humans who have had direct contact with infected birds or their environment are at risk.”

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency conducted outreach to several local government agencies and bird owners to keep them informed of the situation.

“Knowing that this disease is spread by wild migratory birds, the main objective of control is to prevent the spread from wild birds to domestic flocks by taking proactive biosecurity measures,” he said.

Cara Petricca of the Bluebird Farm Animal Sanctuary in Cheshire said she had been aware of bird flu in the county for several months and explained the sanctuary had stopped taking birds in to prevent it spreading there .

“It’s here, and it’s not going anywhere for a while, especially now that all the birds are starting to migrate,” she said. “Kind of like COVID, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

According to Petricca, several other precautions have been taken at the sanctuary, such as more frequent cleaning and lining the aviaries with mesh to keep them fully enclosed. She said an outbreak of bird flu is potentially devastating to any flock of birds due to its contagion.

“Most people don’t want [report the virus to the USDA], because they don’t want someone to come and kill their whole herd. What they don’t realize is that it’s going to kill their herd whether they bring someone in or not,” she said.

The Berkshire County herd was the first case of HPAI discovered in Massachusetts and the fifth in New England. Since then, the disease has been identified in 29 states. The USDA and state agricultural agencies had called for bird feeders to be removed to prevent the spread of the disease from wild birds.

HPAI can infect domestic flocks and can be carried by free-flying waterfowl. The first case was discovered in a wild duck in South Carolina in January. It was the first time it had been found in the wild since 2016, although there was a case in a commercial flock of turkeys, also in South Carolina, in 2020.

“As of mid-January 2022, the USDA confirmed the presence of HPAI in wild birds from Florida to Canada, including Massachusetts,” Wall said.

Petricca said the death of a flock has more than financial ramifications for bird owners.

“It’s devastating not just for businesses, but also for the people who have these animals as pets,” she said. “They are part of their family. Sometimes they provide food for a family. So when someone loses their herd, there’s a lot of emotional damage, there’s a lot of financial damage.”

Symptoms include sudden death, lethargy, decreased egg production, swelling and discoloration around the head, runny nose, and diarrhea.

Owners of birds who suspect avian influenza should contact the Animal Health Division at 617-626-1795.

Keywords: agriculture, poultry farming,