As spring rapidly approaches, experts with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health are keeping a close eye on migratory birds and cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI).
110 sites were infected by HPAI last year in Minnesota. The Minnesota Board of Animal Health says the last case was reported on December 14, 2022 impacting a flock of 41 birds.
"We know that HPAI survived over the summer and we had cases into the fall and early part of the winter," said Dr. Shauna Voss, Senior Veterinarian at the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. "It has been quiet since December but we're watching cases in other parts of the country. We're fully expecting that we're going to see a resurgence of the virus in our Minnesota poultry flocks this spring."
Over 4.2 million birds made up the flocks impacted by HPAI last year in Minnesota.
The first cases of H5N1 in Minnesota were confirmed on March 25, 2022.
"In general influenza viruses tend to show up in our domestic populations during our migratory period so our spring migration and fall migration," Dr. Voss said. "We had detections at the end of August when it was still plenty warm."
Dr. Voss adds that while warmer weather plays a role in the spread of the virus, the bird flu detections in August are a good reminder that measures must be followed year-round to ensure flocks are as safe as possible.
"We know that the virus is a global problem and that it went south this winter and they're seeing cases in Central and South America. We're likely going to be dealing with this long term. What we do know that viruses change and we can't predict how it will look when it comes back."
In an effort to reduce transmission last year the University of Minnesota's Raptor Center warned against using bird feeders and other areas where birds congregate.
"Just be mindful especially if you have even just a small number of birds at home," added Dr. Voss. "If you do travel out and about and you're going for a walk around the lake where there might be wild waterfowl cohabitating in those areas, make sure you're taking some basic biosecurity measures like changing your clothes and shoes, or maybe taking a shower before you go and do chores on your birds at home."