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Michigan farmers must step up bird flu fight under new emergency order

group of chickens on the farm
Avian flu can infect mammals but it is especially deadly for birds, with a nearly 100% mortality rate among domestic chickens. (Shutterstock)
  • Millions of bird flu cases have been detected among poultry and cattle in six Michigan counties
  • A new order directs farmers to take extra precautions to restrict access to the animals and to clean and disinfect
  • There appears to be low risk to humans at this point

Michigan has declared an “extraordinary animal health emergency,” implementing what the head of the state’s agricultural department called “the most comprehensive measures in the country” to protect Michigan’s livestock.

Already, highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1) — which can quickly wipe out entire flocks of domestic chickens — has spread in poultry and cattle in six Michigan counties.


“This is an active and ongoing threat to both dairy and poultry operations across the state,” said Tim Boring, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, who signed the order Wednesday.


The risk-reduction response order establishes “robust biosecurity practices” to help protect Michigan’s poultry and cattle industries from further outbreaks, he said.

 “Implementing these measures must be the highest priority for every farm and everyday agricultural worker,” he added.

Under the emergency order, all Michigan dairy farms and poultry operations must do the following:

  • Designate a biosecurity manager and establish a perimeter that limits access to livestock
  • Establish cleaning and disinfection procedures at those access points 
  • Maintain a record of vehicles and people who cross access points
  • Keep all lactating dairy cattle, and those in the last two months of pregnancy, from being exhibited until there are no new cases of HPAI in Michigan dairy cattle for at least 60 consecutive days 
  • Keep all poultry from being exhibited until there are no new cases of HPAI in domestic poultry in the state of Michigan for at least 30 consecutive days. 

The order goes into effect on May 8. It applies to all dairy and commercial poultry facilities statewide. Poultry include guinea fowl, turkeys, waterfowl, pigeons, doves, peafowl, and game birds cared for by humans.

The virus infects other birds, including wild migratory waterfowl, as well.


It appears that the virus poses very low risk to humans, Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, the state’s chief medical executive, said during an afternoon news conference with Boring.

A Texas man infected with avian flu last month after having contact with a herd does not signal a high risk, she said. Rather, the “highly pathogenic” part of the name refers to the mortality rate in domestic poultry. The virus has been known to wipe out entire flocks.

“Sporadic human cases may occur, but we currently have no evidence of sustained human-to-human spread with this virus,” Bagdasarian said.

Meanwhile, federal agencies also have sought to reassure the public that the commercial supply of milk, chicken and eggs is safe. Pasteurization inactivates bacteria and viruses, including influenza, in milk, as does cooking eggs and chicken, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The heads of the Michigan Allied Poultry Industries and Michigan Association of Fairs and Exhibitions praised the emergency order. 


“The actions taken today by MDARD reflect the seriousness of the situation facing our industries,” Dr. Nancy Barr, executive director of the poultry organization, said in a statement released by the state. She said her group would work with agriculture officials to support farmers.

With the order, “it's hoped that poultry exhibitors can still participate in fair activities once circumstances have improved,” John Schut, executive director of the fairs association said, also in a statement released by the state.

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