Avian influenza could rise again as migratory season approaches

The number of birds infected with HPAI could spike due to the upcoming migratory season

Poultry producers should take extra biosecurity precaution during the migratory bird season.
Emily Beal / Agweek

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has taken a detrimental toll on the country’s poultry industry. According to the Centers for Disease Control, since January 2022 more than 58 million birds have died due to either contracting avian flu or being euthanized after being in close contact with infected flocks in 46 states.

Luckily for the state of North Dakota, there have been no positive domestic cases of avian influenza since November 2022. Prior to that, in 2022, there were 24 confirmed outbreaks . With the spring’s migratory season quickly approaching, the state could see the virus return.

“Unfortunately, we’re probably going to see a rise in it again as migratory birds make their way back into our area,” said Samantha Lahman, North Dakota State University Extension 4-H animal science specialist.

Implementing a proper biosecurity management plan is of the utmost importance during the migratory season, no matter if a producer has a small backyard flock or a larger flock. Some things to consider is how are the bird pens and areas being cleaned and how are producers disposing of the waste.

Hunters, landowners and producers should know the steps to take if they see a sick or dead bird that could be infected with HPAI. Both wild birds as well as mammals can test positive for avian influenza. A repeated key step is avoiding contact between potentially infected birds and non-infected birds.


“The primary carriers of avian influenza A (H5N1) are waterfowl, gulls, terns and shorebirds,” Dr. Gerald Stokka, NDSU Extension veterinarian and livestock stewardship specialist, said in a statement. “H5N1 HPAI has been detected in wild birds throughout all U.S. migratory flyways . Wild birds can be infected without showing symptoms of the infection. While waterfowl are the primary carriers, positive cases are being documented in predatory birds and mammals.”

For those who hunt and have a flock of their own birds at home, experts say don't wear your hunting clothes in with your own flock, as you could potentially spread HPAI. According to Miranda Meehan, NDSU Extension livestock environmental stewardship specialist, infected birds can spread bird flu virus through their saliva, mucus and feces.

Emily grew up on a corn, soybean and wheat farm in southern Ohio where her family also raises goats. After graduating from The Ohio State University, she moved to Fargo, North Dakota to pursue a career in ag journalism with Agweek. She enjoys reporting on livestock and local agricultural businesses.
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