KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas Department of Agriculture has confirmed two positive cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in northwestern Kansas. The first presumptive case was reported in Pottawatomie County last week.
Experts are warning backyard farmers and commercial producers to take this threat seriously as cases of HPAI are also being reported in several states that border Kansas, including Missouri.
HPAI is a viral, respiratory disease in the poultry industry spread through migrating wild birds.
“Every case that we have had has involved a pond nearby that has inhabited some of those wild birds, so create that separation,” said Kansas Animal Health Commissioner Justin Smith. “Generate some practices to where you’re not wearing your outside boots into your pen and into your coup. Make sure that you’re changing clothes. Cover up your feet sources. If you have backyard birds, now is the time to put them under cover.”
Farmers are encouraged to keep an eye on their flocks and look for symptoms like sneezing, increased breathing and lethargy. They are also asked to note any deaths.
The virus is not treatable in animals right now and there is no vaccination. However, the good news is there is no impact on the health of humans, and it is not a food safety hazard.
In fact, homestead farmer Menno Lavigne is more concerned about the quantity of eggs and chicken than the quality.
“I definitely think that prices will go up, and I think that things like cost of keeping and maintaining the chickens, as well feed, I think that's gonna go up as well," Lavigne said. "And scarcity of things is gonna become very prominent."
Lavigne and her family recently moved to Kansas City from Arizona and started their homestead in the backyard.
She bought several chickens from a farm located an hour south of Kansas City but quickly quarantined the fowl in a van so that she could make sure they were safe before introducing them to the rest of her chickens.
“I think it’s really important to keep your flocks smaller when you’re dealing with influenza, and keeping the environment controlled and keeping it clean is a really big deal,” she said.
Lavigne also said the cost to maintain her homestead and provide veterinarian care for her chickens is more costly for her compared to a commercial farm. Thus, it is critical to keep her homestead healthy to prevent additional costs.