The recent detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza at a commercial turkey farm in Indiana, as well as in hunter-harvested birds in five states in the Pacific flyway should have the poultry industry on high alert for wild birds that may be around poultry farms.

While the wild birds in the United States with confirmed cases of HPAI have been various species of ducks, Janet Bucknall, deputy administrator for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Wildlife Services agency, says producers should also pay special attention to gulls in the area.

She said in addition to the hunter-harvested ducks in Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia testing positive to HPAI, in Canada, wild species to test positive have included geese and gulls.

“I particularly mention the gulls because particularly in Indiana and a lot of the states, especially around the Great Lakes, there’s often quite large flocks of gulls … that may frequent the areas of agricultural land, so be on the lookout for those in addition to the duck species,” Bucknall said during a webinar hosted by APHIS on February 9.

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The webinar was held to answer questions and raise awareness about HPAI following the detection of the virus at a commercial turkey facility in Dubois County, Indiana. There are four barns on the premises, but only birds in one of those barns tested positive for a highly pathogenic H5N1 variant of the virus. Those four barns housed a total of 29,000 turkeys, and birds housed in each of those barns are being depopulated and composted onsite.

In addition to HPAI hitting a commercial turkey flock in Indiana, it also was recently confirmed in a commercial turkey flock in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia.

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.