Forty million birds have died from avian flu since February. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed the detection of bird flu in 372 commercial and backyard flocks in 36 states.

But the end might be in sight.

In 2015, the last case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) was at this time confirmed in a commercial flock, ending the 2014-15 record-setting outbreak. That outbreak drew to a close as the summer heat arrived.

The avian flu virus does not survive hot weather. Warmer weather has brought fewer reports and optimism about an end being in sight.

Influenza type A virus, which can infect chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, domestic ducks, geese, and guinea fowl, causes Avian influenza (AI).

 Free-flying waterfowl such as ducks, geese, and shorebirds spread the virus.

AI viruses are classified by a combination of two groups of proteins: hemagglutinin or “H” proteins, of which there are 16 (H1–H16), and neuraminidase or “N” proteins, of which there are 9 (N1–N9).

Many combinations of “H” and “N” proteins are possible. Each variety is considered a different subtype and can be further broken down into different strains which circulate within flyways/geographic regions. 

AI viruses are further classified by their pathogenicity (low or high) — the ability of a particular virus strain to produce disease in domestic poultry.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the public health risk associated with these avian influenza detections in birds remains low

APHIS reminds the public about the proper handling and cooking of all poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F as recommended for a general food safety precaution. 

The United States has the most robust avian influenza surveillance program in the world. As part of existing avian influenza response plans, federal and state partners are jointly working on additional surveillance and testing in areas around the affected flocks. USDA is working with its partners to actively look for the disease in commercial poultry operations, live bird markets, and migratory wild bird populations. 

APHIS provides indemnity payments to producers for eggs and birds that must be put down as part of the disease response.

The agency also encourages good biosecurity practices, which require keeping domestic blocks from wild birds.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)