Antibody Prevalence of Low-Pathogenicity Avian Influenza and Evaluation of Management Practices in Minnesota Backyard Poultry Flocks

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Low-pathogenicity avian influenza (LPAI) viruses have caused illness in poultry and humans with poultry contact. To determine whether there is evidence of exposure to avian influenza viruses (AIV) among backyard poultry in Minnesota and their human caretakers, 150 flocks of backyard birds were sampled for antibodies to AIV from August 2007 through December 2008. One hundred flocks were tested through routine slaughter surveillance by the Minnesota Board of Animal Health and an additional 50 flocks were contacted and sampled by study investigators. Blood was collected from 10 to 13 birds from each flock and a survey of biosecurity and management practices was administered to the flock owner. Blood samples were tested by agar gel immunodiffusion (AGID) for influenza A antibodies. Tested flocks had a median flock size of 100 birds (range: 12–800 birds), and were most commonly owned for meat for personal use (81% of respondents), fun or hobby (58%) and eggs for personal use (56%). Although 7% of flock owners reported that their birds had shown respiratory signs in the previous 3 months, only 1 of 150 flocks tested positive for influenza by AGID. Antibodies to LPAI H6N1 were detected in the positive flock. The owner of the positive flock did not have antibodies to H6 or other common AIV. Based on the findings of this study, the risk of transmission of LPAI viruses from backyard poultry to owners in Minnesota appears to be low under current conditions and management practices.

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