Maine Officials Respond to Avian Influenza Detected in York County

Maine Officials Respond to Avian Influenza Detected in York County

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Animal Health Program

January 12, 2024


Maine Officials Respond to Avian Influenza Detected in York County

Augusta – The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) Animal Health Division and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) have confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), also known as avian influenza, in a non-commercial backyard (non-poultry) flock in York County this week. Samples were tested and confirmed for HPAI by the Cornell Animal Health Diagnostic Center. This confirmation is the first instance of HPAI in a domestic flock in Maine since the spring of 2023. It emphasizes the ongoing need for vigilance as the disease continues to be a risk to domestic birds.

The small flock of 60 birds suffered its first mortality in early January and then experienced ongoing losses. The remaining flock was quarantined to prevent the spread of disease and depopulated this week by officials from DACF, with the agreement and understanding of the flock’s owners. Currently, DACF has received no reports of illness in additional flocks. Though HPAI is considered low risk to human health, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention monitors the individuals who had contact with infected birds or their environment. 

This localized outbreak reinforces the importance of reporting sick and dead wild and domestic birds. Despite the low risk to the public, the virus remains deadly to many species of birds.

For the agriculture community and poultry owners:

The HPAI virus is often initially introduced to domestic poultry by infected wild birds through direct contact or contact with their feces. Then, it may spread between poultry flocks due to poor biosecurity and unfavorable environmental conditions. While some waterfowl species can carry the disease without becoming sick, the HPAI virus is generally fatal for domestic poultry.  Risk factors for the spread of HPAI include:

  • Poultry housed outside
  • Ponds or other wild bird attractants on the farm
  • Piles of debris located close to poultry areas
  • Introduction of poultry from other farms without a quarantine period
  • Lack of personal protective equipment such as dedicated coveralls and boots
  • Sharing of equipment between flocks
  • Unrestricted human movement and interaction with poultry

All bird owners, from backyard pets to commercial farmers, are strongly encouraged to review biosecurity measures to ensure the health of their birds, restrict human movement onto the farm, and limit contact with poultry to only those who need to be there. Non-essential personnel and visitors should not be allowed. USDA has materials about biosecurity, including videos, checklists, and a toolkit available here

In addition to practicing good biosecurity, all bird owners should prevent contact between their birds and wild birds and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to USDA APHIS by calling toll-free 866-536-7593, or the DACF at 207-287-3701.

Additional HPAI Resources: