The Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) has initiated a multi-agency investigation following the confirmation of a highly pathogenic strain of the avian influenza virus (HPAI), originating from wild waterfowl, in western and southern Idaho.

Falcon Image/Pseudopanax
Falcon Image/Pseudopanax

The incidents of HPAI recently found in Washington, Oregon, California and Utah, led USDA Wildlife Services and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to increase routine disease surveillance of wild waterfowl in common migratory regions of Idaho. Surveillance conducted in Gooding County identified several cases of H5N8 avian influenza in wild ducks.

The H5N2 strain of avian influenza virus was confirmed in three falcons from a private, noncommercial
flock in Canyon County, Idaho and was a result of recent contact with wild waterfowl. The flock is currently under quarantine and additional viral testing is being conducted on the remaining birds. Additionally, a small backyard poultry flock in Canyon County, Idaho was identified as having chickens positive for H5N2. That flock was immediately put under quarantine and the birds have been depopulated.

“Both the H5N8 and H5N2 strains of HPAI confirmed in Idaho have previously been identified in incidents in backyard domestic poultry and wild fowl in other northwestern states. It is critical that backyard flock owners and poultry producers take every opportunity to prevent contact between domestic birds and the wild waterfowl that carry the avian influenza virus” said Dr. Bill Barton, ISDA State Veterinarian.

The ISDA is working closely with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, USDA APHIS Wildlife Services and USDA APHIS Veterinary Services to further disease surveillance for avian influenza, statewide.

There have been no human illnesses associated with the H5N8 or H5N2 viral strains of avian influenza anywhere in the world, to date. The virus has not been found in commercial poultry anywhere in the United States. However, to reduce the risk of exposure, individuals handling wild and domestic birds should remember to wash their hands after contact and cook all poultry and poultry products thoroughly prior to consumption.

ISDA encourages commercial poultry growers and backyard owners to be vigilant with biosecurity measures, including maintaining separation between their flocks (including all feed and watering sites) and any wild birds. All poultry producers should monitor their flocks for signs of illness in their birds. Symptoms of avian influenza include, but are not limited to, coughing, sneezing, respiratory distress, decreased egg production, swelling of the head, comb and wattles and sudden death. If producers observe symptoms consistent with HPAI in any of their birds, please contact the ISDA State Veterinarian’s office at 208-332-8540 or USDA-APHIS-VS, toll free at 1-866-536-7593. Sick or dead wild birds should be reported to the Idaho Department of Fish & Game at 208-454-7638.