In April 2022 a sample from a domesticated bird flock in Pitkin County was confirmed to be positive for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1. It is likely that this same strain of avian influenza will begin circulating throughout the country and Pitkin County this spring. The risk to human health is very low; however, not zero. Pitkin County Public Health would like to provide some information about HPAI H5N1 and how the community can protect themselves.
Avian influenza is believed to be endemic to wild waterfowl (such as ducks and geese) and does not cause widespread mortality in those populations (from the CDC). That being said, avian influenza can infect both other wild bird species as well as domesticated bird populations. Within these, non-endemic species, avian influenza and in particular HPAI can cause high mortality leading to widespread die offs. Avian Influenza in both wild and domestic species is highest during the wild bird migration season in the spring (March-May) and the fall (September-November). The spread of HPAI H5N1 across the country is one reason for the dramatic rise in egg prices over the last year.
While HPAI is considered a low risk to humans, there is the small risk of spill over from infected birds into humans. This risk increases for individuals who come into contact with sick or ill wild birds, or for individuals who work in poultry farming or individuals who keep small backyard flocks. While the risk is low there have been two confirmed human cases of HPAI in Cambodia, both of which are believed to be transmitted from domesticated birds. The clade of flu which led to these human cases is endemic to the region and not the same clade that is circulating widely in the United States at this time.
Even though the risk of being infected with HPAI H5N1 is very low, due to the fact that the influenza virus can mutate quickly, Pitkin County Public Health would like to ask individuals to help proactively help protect themselves and help control the spread of HPAI H5N1 this spring.
- While you should never interact with ill or dead animals, this season in particular individuals should never touch or be near birds that appear sick or dead.
- Individuals who have domesticated flocks should avoid contact with any ill or dead animals and report the instance to the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
- Individuals who notice illness or unexplained death in their flock can call the Avian Health Hotline at Colorado State University (CSU): (970) 297-4008 with questions
- Individuals, including veterinarians, may also use the HPAI Poultry Owner Report Form to report possible HPAI to the Colorado Department of Agriculture
- You can read more about HPAI and domestic poultry from the Colorado Department of Agriculture
- Anyone who developed flu-like symptoms after coming into contact with ill or dead birds, particularly those who own domesticated poultry, should seek HPAI testing with their physician.
- Symptoms include but are not limited to; runny nose, fever, cough, sore throat, fatigue, body aches.
If you have any questions please contact [email protected] or read more about HPAI from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the CDC