RALEIGH — A backyard flock in Durham County has tested positive for High Path Avian Influenza (HPAI).

This is the first confirmed positive in Durham County, according to the N.C. Department of Agriculture. The positive sample was identified by the Agriculture Department and Consumer Services Veterinary Diagnostic Lab in Raleigh.

“We have had evidence that the HPAI virus has remained in our resident wild bird population and in migratory waterfowl, so reports of backyard positive flocks are unfortunate, but not surprising,” State Veterinarian Mike Martin said.

The flock will be depopulated to prevent the spread of the disease, according to a news release. Other flocks located near the infected flock will be contacted as part of ongoing surveillance.

This type of HPAI virus is considered a low risk to people according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, but is highly contagious to other birds, including commercial and backyard flocks of poultry. The virus is also not considered a food safety threat and infected birds do not enter the food supply.

“The threat of high path avian influenza is nationwide and likely will remain through the fall and winter,” Martin said. “Commercial operations and backyard flock owners should continue to follow strict biosecurity measures including keeping birds enclosed without access to wild birds or other domestic flocks when possible.”

If your birds are sick or dying, report it right away to your local veterinarian, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Veterinary Division at 919-707-3250, or the N.C. Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System at 919-733-3986.

            The warning signs of HPAI include:

  • Reduced energy, decreased appetite, and/or decreased activity;
  • Lower egg production and/or soft-shelled or misshapen eggs;
  • Swelling of the head, eyelids, comb and wattles;
  • Purple discoloration of the wattles, comb and legs;
  • Difficulty breathing, runny nares (nose), and/or sneezing;
  • Twisting of the head and neck, stumbling, falling down, tremors and/or circling;
  • Greenish diarrhea.

In late spring and early summer, HPAI was found at nine poultry farms in Johnston and Wayne counties. In mid-October, HPAI was found in a single backyard flock in Wake County and in mid-November was found in a single backyard flock in Union County.

More information on biosecurity and the signs of HPAI is at www.ncagr.gov/avianflu. If you have questions about migratory birds, hunting, or wild waterfowl found dead on your property, visit the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s website at www.ncwildlife.org.