What are the signs of avian influenza?
The clinical signs of avian influenza (AI) can look similar to other poultry diseases. In general, the signs include breathing difficulties, watery eyes, bluish colouring in the comb, wattle or legs, swelling of the head, diarrhoea, nervous signs and rapid drop in water/feed intake and egg production,
Bird deaths typically occur within 48 hours of infection and sometimes less than 24 hours. Mortality rates for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in poultry are generally very high. In some cases, birds can die so quickly that the usual clinical signs do not have time to develop.
Are aviary birds or caged birds or back yard poultry at risk of avian influenza?
Aviary birds, caged birds and back yard poultry are at negligible risk of avian influenza infection if owners adopt simple biosecurity measures to prevent them mixing with wild birds and protecting their feed and water from faecal contamination (droppings) by wild birds.
What can bird owners do to reduce the risk of avian influenza?
Most importantly, bird owners should adopt simple biosecurity measures to prevent wild birds gaining access and contaminating the food and water supply of their birds with droppings. This will protect the birds from a range of health risks, not just avian influenza. It is strongly recommended that drinking water supplied to birds should be treated (chlorinated) mains water, high quality bore water or water, treated with chlorine, from other sources.
Download the Biosecurity Checklist for a list of simple measures that bird owners can take to reduce the risk of AI. Biosecurity Checklist for Bird Keepers (44Kb)
For more detailed information on what poultry producers and bird keepers need to know go to the Australian Government website Protect your birds against bird flu and diseases, or for biosecurity tips for bird shows their website Bird biosecurity.
There is little risk of people in Australia being affected by avian influenza through normal contact with birds. As always, practise good personal hygiene when handling birds. Routinely wash hands thoroughly with soap after handling birds, and wear gloves if handling birds that are sick or dead. These are effective measures against many diseases, including avian influenza.
Avian influenza and Biosecurity Checklist for Bird Keepers
Bird owners should adopt simple biosecurity measures to prevent wild birds gaining access and contaminating the food and water supply of their birds with droppings. This will protect the birds from a range of health risks, not just avian influenza.
It is strongly recommended that drinking water supplied to birds should be either:
- treated (chlorinated) mains water
- high quality bore water
- water treated with chlorine from other sources
For further advice and information to help minimise the risk of avian influenza and a range of other diseases:
What if my birds get sick or die?
Even when there is no increased risk of avian influenza, bird owners should always seek professional veterinary advice if any of their birds become sick or die suddenly. Report unusual findings such as sudden or large numbers of deaths to your local vet or phone the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888.
All bird owners need to be vigilant for signs of disease, especially where multiple mortalities occur in poultry, or many birds are sick. Owners of backyard poultry or free-range poultry should be especially cautious. The sickness may be one of several poultry diseases - including avian influenza or Newcastle disease, both of which are highly contagious. If it is a contagious disease, early reporting is essential to stop it spreading.
Can poultry be vaccinated against avian influenza?
Currently there are no vaccines available in Australia to protect poultry against avian influenza.
Vaccination has sometimes been used in conjunction with the slaughtering of infected birds for the eradication of avian influenza in overseas outbreaks, but the results have been mixed.
If an outbreak occurred in Australia, vaccination might be an option in some circumstances.