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OSU Extension

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

December 20, 2023 - 9:00am --

I don’t know if you have been watching the news, but Ohio is experiencing another outbreak of avian influenza in the western portion of the state.  The USDA is currently reporting that 4 commercial flocks, totaling over 4 million birds, in Darke and Hardin Counties have been affected at this point.  Avian influenza (A.I.) is caused by an influenza type A virus that can affect domestic poultry and wild birds.  While there are multiple strains in the environment, they can be split into two broad classifications: High Pathogenic and Low Pathogenic AI.  High Path AI strains are extremely infectious, often fatal to chickens, and spreads rapidly from flock to flock.  The Low Path AI is often seen in wild birds without causing illness, and while it can infect domestic poultry it produces few if any clinical signs.

Clinical signs of avian influenza

                The clinical signs of AI include lack of coordination; purple discoloration of the wattles, combs, and legs; green diarrhea; and nasal discharge.  If a High Path AI strain is the cause, there is typically a rapid onset of mortalities with few clinical signs.  Considering all types of AI, the incubation period of the disease can be up to 14 days, but with HPAI mortalities can be observed within a few days of infection.  Within the infected house, the disease is spread by healthy birds coming into contact with saliva and nasal secretions from affected birds.  It spreads from house to house by wind, workers carrying the disease on their clothing, or by vehicles that are moving between farms.

When AI has been identified within a flock, the USDA has a response team that coordinates containment and surveillance activities within the region.  Unfortunately, the infected flocks are destroyed and a surveillance bubble of 50 miles is instituted from the flock of origin.  Although it is handled on a case-by-case basis, the team is usually in place for three weeks following the last flock identification.  Many poultry companies will institute a testing program to confirm that a flock is disease-free prior to transporting that flock to harvest.

The disease can be zoonotic (transmissible between species, including humans) but the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has classified the current risk as low.  This means that the chance of your average person being infected is low.  There are no known reports of human-to-human spread of AI and those that would be most at risk are those that have direct contact with infected birds.  The human clinical symptoms would be similar to normal flu, and it carries no more risk than that of our annual flu concerns.

Prevention is key

Whether you have a commercial or backyard flock, prevention is about biosecurity.  Commercial flocks should institute extreme measures.  This would focus on limiting personnel and equipment movement between houses.  A clean room in each house should be utilized to keep items that have come into contact with birds from leaving the house.  Workers should be provided disposable boots, and footbaths should be utilized at each building.  Vehicles should be sanitized prior to entry onto the property and before leaving.  They should evaluate their wildlife exclusion methods to prevent wild birds and rodents from coming into a house.  For the backyard flock owners, you should limit contact with other flocks and confine your birds so that their exposure to wild birds is prevented, or at least limited.  If you notice any unusual signs of disease, or unexpected deaths, you should call the Ohio Poultry Association at (614)882-6111 or the Ohio Department of Agriculture at (614)728-6220.  The Ohio Department of Agriculture also has an after-hours hotline at (888)456-3405.

Upcoming Programs

We have scheduled our annual Private Pesticide and Fertilizer Applicators Recertification Programs for 2024, and are taking reservations.  The first program will be held in conjunction with the AgPro Expo at Harvest Ridge Fairgrounds in Millersburg on January 25th.  Our first Wayne County session will be at Drake Park, in West Salem on February 9th.  Those due to recertify should have received a listing of all programs from the Ohio Department of Agriculture and you can find our list on our website (  The cost of each program is $35 for pesticide recertification and $15 for fertilizer, paid the day of the program.  As a reminder, this charge is separate from the $30 License Renewal Fee you are required to pay the ODA.  You should mail that to the ODA with your renewal application.

I am also excited to announce that we are taking registrations for the 2024 Professional Marketer Program.  The program is an advanced commodity marketing school targeting beef, dairy, and grain producers.  We have scheduled an outstanding line-up of speakers from academia and private industry that will cover topics on: determining your cost of production, price goal setting, fundamental market analysis, technical market analysis, commodity pricing tools, and much more.  There are 5 sessions during the month of February, the first beginning on February 1st at 11:00 AM at the Buckeye Ag Museum.  The program cost $150 per participant and provides access to all sessions, a binder of course materials and lunch each day.  You can find more information on the program on our website ( and you can register at

As always, if you have questions about our programs please feel free to contact me at the OSU Wayne County Extension office at 330-264-8722, or email me at  Even better is to stop by our office for a chat.  I look forward to meeting everyone and I hope you have a safe holiday season.

This article was previously published in The Daily Record.