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How can I tell if it's avian influenza?

PUBLISHED: 15:10 21 September 2007 | UPDATED: 21:04 29 April 2014

Victoria Roberts BVSc MRCVS, Country Smallholding Vet's forum, describes the symptoms of Avian Influenza

 Be suspicious of:

• high, rapid and unexplained mortality
• a severe drop in egg production

Symptoms of AI:

• Large numbers of depressed, sick and dying birds
• Panting with open mouth
• Discharge from eyes and nostrils
• Dark congested comb and wattles
• Swelling of the head
• High fever

Compare with:

• Newcastle disease: nervous signs such as twisted neck, trembling or difficulty in walking
• Infectious bronchitis: respiratory noise, discharge from eyes and nostrils, egg production drops but not significant acute mortality
• Mycoplasma: severe sinusitis, head swelling, sweet sickly smell, congested nostrils
Other viral respiratory pathogens:

• avian pneumovirus (TRT)
• Infectious rhinotracheitis (ILT)
Bacterial respiratory pathogens:

• Ornithobacter rhinotrachale (ORT)
• Haemophilus paragallinarum (fowl coryza)
• Pasturella multocida (fowl cholera)
• E coli as secondary infection

Biosecurity for free-range poultry:

• Keep feed under cover to minimise wild bird attraction
• Keep water fresh and free of droppings
• Keep waterfowl and chickens separate
• Control vermin
• Quarantine new stock for two to three weeks
• Quarantine birds after taking to an exhibition for seven days
• Change clothes and wash boots before and after visiting other breeders
• Change clothes and wash boots before and after attending a sale
• Keep fresh disinfectant at the entrance to poultry areas for dipping footwear
• Disinfect crates before and after use, especially if lent to others, although it’s better not to be sharing equipment
• Disinfect vehicles which have been on poultry premises but avoid taking vehicles onto other premises
• Comply with any import/export regulations/guidelines

These are all common sense measures which can easily be incorporated into daily routine.

Further information
For ongoing information on avian flu:  Defra helpline: 01224 711 072. www.defra.gov.uk
World Health Organisation: www.who.int

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