Concerns about bird flu outbreak rise with case numbers


Collegian | Madelyn Hendricks

JJ McKinney

DJ Vicente, Staff Reporter

As new cases of the H5N1 avian influenza virus continue to affect wild and commercial bird flocks internationally, questions rise on what flock owners and avian health advocates can do.

Otherwise coined the “bird flu” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus’ newest pandemic has spread to a large number of bird flocks worldwide, with more than 58.4 million reports of infected poultry birds in the USA alone, according to the CDC.


“We don’t see it slowing down, at least right now,” said Heather Reider, avian health coordinator at the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories at Colorado State University.

Reider, who works under the VDL Avian Diagnostics at CSU, noted that while able to observe the direction of past migrations that have caused outbreaks to rise in the U.S., factors showing any signs of the virus slowing down are hard to identify.

“It is very hard to predict if this virus mutates and it changes,” Reider said. “That could impact (predictions).”

Waterfowl birds are the “natural reservoirs” of bird flu, with the virus being able to replicate itself in the bird’s intestinal and respiratory tracts, Reider said. As a result, it infects other species through fecal matter and the air.

Reider also said these birds caused a “viral load” into the environment, which causes more infections due to how prevalent the virus becomes over time.

Reider noted the timeline of cases within the United States as well. According to statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, cases in commercial and backyard flocks have been traced back to February 2022, with cases of wild flocks first detected in January 2022.

In Colorado, wild and commercial bird detections date back to March and April of 2022, respectively, according to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Association. In the case of wild birds, mortality rates in November ranged “from a single animal to more than 1,000 dead geese on a single reservoir,” also according to CPW.

Since the virus’ spread since last February, economic impacts have shown in the poultry industry. According to a chart provided by the USDA, due to the large loss of commercial flocks throughout 2022, inventories of shell eggs declined, leading to a 267% price increase heading into Christmas time due to the demand.

“We’re feeling a lot of the economic impact, and I would expect that to continue as long as this virus is here,” Reider said.


The current most effective method of protecting flocks, especially those owned commercially or in backyards, is through biosecurity. This is especially important with the high number of cases spreading between flocks.

“It is hard to predict where it’s going to pop up,” Reider said. “A lot of our commercial facilities have great biosecurity, but just given the density and prevalence of the virus in wild birds, it’s even more important for people to practice biosecurity to keep the virus out of their flocks.”

To learn about biosecurity, Reider points to the USDA’s Defend the Flock Program, an educational initiative that provides information to flock owners in order to protect their birds from infectious diseases, especially avian influenza.

According to Defend the Flock, biosecurity is maintained through the prevention of exposure to diseases, “away from birds, property and people.” Basic measures include the disinfection of the owner’s body before contact with live poultry, the designation and sanitization of clothes and tools used for inside and outside flock areas and limiting contact with other visitors.

“The other big thing too is when owners are feeding their birds, you want to keep other wild birds out of your flock,” Reider said. “Everyone knows there’s food there, … and you want to prevent wild birds from mingling with your coop.”

On the topic of mammals, the virus remains unable to spread from animal to animal, with scattered detections due to the consumption of birds infected by avian influenza, Reider said.

Like with mammals, only one human case within the U.S. has been reported. The CDC states the virus has had “no known human-to-human spread.” Globally, human infections are rare.

Reider urged those who have concerns about the bird flu outbreak and other questions to contact CSU’s Avian Health Hotline at 970-297-4008.

Reach DJ Vicente at or on Twitter @DeejMako.