Nearly 48,000 chickens killed after avian flu outbreak, another nearly 300,000 more birds to be killed, state officials say

Published 7:38 pm Friday, November 3, 2023

Nearly 48,000 chickens were killed after an Alabama poultry farm was found to have been infected with avian influenza, state officials said Friday. Another nearly 300,000 birds are to be killed as well.

The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) and USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) have confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in a commercial pullet farm in Marshall County, Alabama.

Samples from the flock were tested at the Alabama State Diagnostic Laboratory, part of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, and confirmed positive at the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa.

APHIS is working closely with state animal health officials in Alabama on a joint incident response and action plan. State officials quarantined the affected premise, and all birds on the property (approximately 47,900) were depopulated to prevent the spread of the disease.

All poultry within a 10-kilometer radius (6.2 miles) of the site are being tested and monitored. Currently, no other flocks have experienced an increase in mortality.

Last week, HPAI was also confirmed in a commercial upland gamebird farm in Chilton County. All poultry (pheasants, quail, ducks and chukars) on this premise will be depopulated by week’s end. A total of 296,500 birds were affected.

As part of existing avian influenza response plans, Federal and State partners are working on additional surveillance and testing in areas around the affected flocks. The United States has the strongest AI surveillance program in the world. ADAI and USDA are actively monitoring for the disease in commercial poultry operations, backyard flocks, live bird markets and in migratory wild bird populations.

HPAI is considered low risk to human health according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, but is highly contagious to other birds, including commercial and backyard flocks of poultry. While the virus is also not considered a food safety threat, infected birds do not enter the food supply.

ADAI Commissioner Rick Pate and State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Frazier release the following statement, “It is critical for commercial and backyard poultry operations to remain alert and closely monitor the health of their poultry. The HPAI infected flock in Marshall County reinforces the need to continue following strict biosecurity measures, including keeping birds enclosed without access to wild birds or other domestic flocks.”

HPAI symptoms include:

Sudden increase in bird deaths in your flock
Sneezing, gasping for air, coughing and nasal discharge
Watery and green diarrhea
Lack of energy and poor appetite
Drop in egg production or soft or thin-shelled, misshaped eggs
• Swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles, and hocks
Purple discoloration of the wattles, comb and legs
Ruffled feathers, listlessness and lethargy
ADAI urges the commercial poultry industry and backyard flock owners to increase biosecurity measures to protect their operations from HPAI.

Biosecurity measures can include:

Cleaning vehicles and equipment
Limiting unnecessary visitors
Sanitizing shoes in clean foot baths
Changing clothes upon contact with birds and more
People should avoid contact with sick/dead poultry or wildlife. If contact occurs, wash your hands and change clothing before having any contact with poultry and wild birds. For information on biosecurity measures, visit