By Molly Burke
The Denver Post
U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors confirmed the first case of avian flu in a backyard chicken flock in Colorado on Saturday.
The highly pathogenic avian influenza, known as HPAI, was detected in a non-commercial flock in Pitkin County, according to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
The infected chickens will be killed and all affected premises are being quarantined, the USDA said.
Officials are asking anyone from those with backyard chickens to commercial poultry farms to review biosecurity measures to avoid the further spread of the highly contagious disease.
State officials had confirmed the presence of avian flu in wild birds in parts of Colorado late last month, leading the Denver Zoo to shut down its outdoor bird exhibits and bring the animals inside.
Wild birds typically do not die from the avian flu, but it can be deadly to poultry and other species. It’s most common in waterfowl, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the risk to humans is low.
But it’s much more dire for poultry. Olga Robak, director of communications for the Colorado Department of Agriculture, previously told The Denver Post that it’s 90% to 100% fatal in poultry. Prior to the current outbreak, the avian flu hadn’t been confirmed in the U.S. since 2015, though there were no cases in Colorado during that time.
Previously, the Colorado Department of Agriculture reported that, since late last month, cases of the avian flu have been confirmed in wild birds in Sedgwick, Morgan and Denver counties.
Nearly 23 million chickens and turkeys have already been killed across the United States to limit the spread of the virus.
The highly pathogenic avian influenza is most common in ducks, geese and swans, spreading to other birds through mucus, saliva and feces. Experts say it can be spread through contaminated equipment, clothing, boots and vehicles carrying supplies.
Robak said that the Department of Agriculture is working with poultry farmers to establish plans to proactively prevent the spread of disease and has enacted a 90-day pause on any bird co-mingling events.