Chickens roam the backyard of Allison Blokland in Eddington Wednesday. Credit: Ashley L. Conti / BDN

More cases of the deadly avian flu are being found in Maine.

The H5N1 avian influenza, a deadly disease that was first identified in Maine in a small flock in Knox County in February, has the state on high alert. Keepers of backyard poultry flocks are being urged to take every precaution to prevent its spread.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services provides updates on newly identified cases in both backyard poultry and wild birds. The department also provides information and resources  to help people keep birds healthy and reduce the risk of spreading infectious diseases. The two most important things are limiting human visitors and excluding wildlife.

H5N1 is carried by flying wild waterfowl like ducks, geese and shorebirds. While it does not sicken wild fowl, it causes severe symptoms in domestic fowl including chickens, turkeys, ducks, pheasants, geese and guinea fowl.

So far in Maine it has been found in both domestic and wild birds.

Symptoms include swollen heads, blue coloration of combs and wattles, lack of appetite, respiratory distress and diarrhea with a significant drop in egg production. These symptoms are particularly severe in chickens and turkeys.

If there is any question about the health of an individual bird or entire flock, it is crucial to report those cases to state officials by calling 866-536-7593.

Avatar photo

Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.