Avian influenza outbreak continues across the country

South Dakota State University continues to see cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza at its Animal Disease Research and Diagnostics Laboratory.

Bird flu
Avian influenza continues to impact both wild birds and domestic poultry.
File photo

BROOKINGS, S.D. — The avian influenza outbreak continues to impact birds across the country.

“The current outbreak, highly pathogenic avian influenza, is particularly in wild bird populations, but when it gets into domestic poultry, it can cause a lot of mortalities,” said Angela Pillatzeki, head of the Veterinarian Biomedical Sciences Department and director of the Animal Disease Research and Diagnostics Laboratory at South Dakota State University.

The current outbreak has been detected in domestic poultry and wild bird populations since March 2022. Since then, nationwide, 325 commercial poultry flocks and 506 backyard flocks have been infected, a total of 58.8 million birds.

In South Dakota alone, 4 million birds have been infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza since the outbreak began.

“Obviously, it has a great detrimental effect on the poultry industry, both turkeys and chickens. So, you can have high mortalities, you can also have a drop in egg production in your laying hens, so on an economic basis, it can be quite devastating to commercial poultry producers,” Pillatzeki said.


Taking the necessary precautions is key to keeping avian influenza outbreaks at a minimum.

“Biosecurity is just incredibly important,” Pillatzeki said. “That just means have good policies and procedures in place for disinfection and cleaning and movement of individuals and birds, either into your premise or between barns.”

Pillatzeki said some things you can do to prevent wild birds from impacting your domestic poultry include cleaning up feed spills, limiting standing water, and trying to have nothing that will attract wild birds on your property.

Symptoms of avian influenza include drops in feed consumption, birds that aren’t active, and increased mortality in birds.

“So, if they are seeing things like that and they don’t know why those things are happening, it would be best to, you know, contact the animal industry board and have some testing done,” Pillatzeki said.

The South Dakota Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory on the SDSU campus is the only lab in the state that tests for avian influenza.

“Most often, we will get swabs that will come into the laboratory, and those are tested by (polymerase chain reaction) testing for avian influenza, and if we suspect that they are non-negatives, we forward those samples on to National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, and then they confirm that it is highly pathogenic avian influenza,” Pillatzeki said.

Test numbers vary during different seasons.


“But then again, we have kind of seen an increase recently with the migration of wild birds to the north, we have definitely seen an increase in testing and have seen some more positives in this state and the Midwest,” Pillatzeki said.

However, this strand of avian influenza has been different than others in the past.

“This particular outbreak has been a little bit unique in that it has kind of stayed even during the summer months, kind of stayed at a low level of positives which is a little unique,” Pillatzeki said. “That’s why this particular outbreak has extended over a year’s period of time.”

In this outbreak, highly pathogenic avian influenza has also been detected in many mammals.

“So, for example, it’s been detected in red foxes, in black bears, bobcats. They have even detected it in bottle nose dolphins and some species of seals,” Pillatzeki said. “So, this outbreak and this virus is quite unique, so it will be really interesting to see what we learn about the genetics of this virus and what makes it unique from, say, previous outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza.”

If a producer suspects they have avian influenza within their flock, they should contact either the USDA or the South Dakota Animal Industry Board and they will collect samples from the flock for testing.

Ariana is a reporter for Agweek based out of South Dakota. She graduated from South Dakota State University in 2022 with a double major in Agricultural Communications and Journalism, with a minor in Animal Science. She is currently a graduate student at SDSU, working towards her Masters of Mass Communications degree. She enjoys reporting on all things agriculture and sharing the stories that matter to both the producers and the consumers.

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