Here’s a roundup of what we know so far about the avian flu that is sickening poultry throughout Maine.

What is the avian flu?

The current strain of the highly contagious virus — known scientifically as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 — is an influenza that affects poultry of all kinds, from wild birds to backyard and commercial flocks.

Wild birds can act as hosts to the virus, storing it in their digestive and respiratory tracts, and some fowl — such as ducks — can carry it and pass it to other birds without ever showing symptoms.

The virus is deadly and can spread quickly throughout a flock by means of body fluids, such as bird droppings, mucus or even contact with eggs.

Symptoms of a bird that has been sickened by the virus 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.

The cases detected in early 2022 were the first cases ever reported in Maine and are reason for concern, according to Dr. Michele Walsh, state veterinarian with the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

However, the highly transmittable H5N1 is not considered a danger to humans and should not raise alarm about poultry-to-human transmission of the virus.

📍 Where avian flu has been detected in Maine

What you can do about avian flu

Current impact in Maine

Other resources