The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) has conducted high path avian influenza (HPAI) surveillance and monitored poultry flocks in Louisiana for years. Our goal with the surveillance program is to detect the disease early on to minimize impacts on our valuable poultry industry. With several states, including Iowa and Minnesota, having experienced HPAI outbreaks, the LDAF stepped up poultry surveillance early in 2015. In addition, the department hosted a number of outreach programs with poultry growers and backyard enthusiasts.


Disease Information

Avian influenza (AI) is a virus that infects wild birds (such as ducks, gulls and shorebirds) and domestic poultry (such as chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese). There is a flu for birds just as there is for humans and, as with people, some forms of the flu are worse than others.

AI in poultry also are divided into two groups: low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) and highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). Like influezna symptoms in people, birds infected with LPAI usually only experience mild signs, if any, including respiratory such as conjunctivitis and nasal discharge, ruffled feathers or a drop in egg production

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is a serious poultry disease that spreads very quickly and is often fatal to chickens and turkeys.  It can infect all types of chickens and turkeys, as well as many other kinds of birds.

Know the Warning Signs of HPAI
  • Sudden increase in bird deaths without any clinical signs
  • Lack of energy and appetite
  • Decrease in egg production
  • Soft- or thin-shelled or misshapen eggs
  • Swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles, and hocks
  • Purple discoloration of the wattles, comb, and legs
  • Gasping for air (difficulty breathing)
  • Coughing, sneezing, and/or nasal discharge (runny nose)
  • Stumbling or falling down
  • Diarrhea
How is the virus spread in birds
  • Avian influenza is primarily spread by direct contact between healthy birds and infected birds, and through indirect contact with contaminated equipment and materials.  The virus is excreted through the feces of infected birds and through secretions from the nose, mouth and eyes.
  • Contact with infected fecal material is the most common of bird–to–bird transmission.  Wild ducks often introduce LPAI into domestic flocks raised on range or in open flight pens through fecal contamination.  Within a poultry house, transfer of the HPAI virus between birds also can occur via airborne secretions.  The spread of AI between poultry premises almost always follows the movement of contaminated people and equipment. Avian influenza also can be found on the outer surfaces of egg shells. Transfer of eggs is a potential means of transmission. Airborne transmission of virus from farm to farm is highly unlikely under usual circumstances.
All bird owners, whether commercial producers or backyard-poultry enthusiasts, should continue to practice good biosecurity, prevent contact between their birds and wild birds, and to report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to state/federal officials, either through your state veterinarian or through USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593. In addition, bird owners should review their biosecurity activities. A biosecurity self-assessment and other educational materials are available at the US Poultry & Egg website. Additional information on biosecurity for backyard flocks may be found at
Farmers/Producers Resources