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Avian owners in South Carolina warned of Eurasian strain of influenza


Animal health officials at Clemson University issued the notification after backyard poultry flocks in 2 counties contracted the virus

Backyard poultry

Photo courtesy of Clemson University

Owners of avian flocks and waterfowl in South Carolina are being warned by animal health officials at Clemson University to keep their pets out of contact with wild birds and waterways used by them in an effort to limit the spread of influenza. The Eurasian H5 strain concerning Clemson officials in South Carolina is a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) that has been reported by pet bird owners in the state’s Horry and Orangeburg counties.1 

Avian influenza, which includes low pathogenicity virus strains, is highly contagious and affects chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, ducks, geese, and guinea fowl as well as wild birds. Especially affecting waterfowl, HPAI can spread quickly between flocks and is often fatal to domestic poultry, according to the USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).2,3

“It is imperative that all owners of backyard poultry and pet waterfowl keep their birds from mingling with wild waterfowl or accessing waters that could be frequented by wild waterfowl,” said Michael Neault, DVM, South Carolina’s state veterinarian, and director of the Clemson University Livestock-Poultry Health program, in an organizational release.1 “These precautions not only protect their birds from contracting the virus, but also help keep the poultry industry (big and small) safe.”

HPAI requires a quick treatment response to contain it and mitigate transmission to other birds. Signs include sudden death, lethargy, lack of appetite, decreased egg production, soft-shelled or misshapen eggs, purple discoloration of wattles, comb and legs; runny nose, difficulty breather, coughing, sneezing, diarrhea, and swelling of the head, comb, eyelid, wattles and hocks. Incoordination such as stumbling, falling down, circling and tremors, and twisting of the head and neck are also signs of infection.1,3

Birds in the reported South Carolina flocks died and these flocks were found to be infected with HPAI through testing by the Clemson Veterinary Diagnostics Center with confirmation by the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories. According to Clemson officials, the South Carolina commercial poultry industry has not been affected by the Eurasian strain of HPAI found in the cases of backyard flocks because of strict biosecurity protocols.1

Twenty-one US states reported cases of avian influenza in 2023. HPAI is not considered a food safety threat and is not a high risk to human health.1


  1. Veit J. S.C. animal health officials remind backyard flock owners to isolate their birds. News release. Clemson University. January 25, 2024. Accessed January 25, 2024.
  2. 2022-2023 detections of highly pathogenic avian influenza. USDA Animal and Plant Inspection Service. January 18, 2023. Accessed January 25, 2024. https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/animal-disease-information/avian/avian-influenza/2022-hpai#:~:text=With%20the%20recent%20detections%20of,pet%20birds%20from%20this%20disease.
  3. Defend the flock—signs of illness. April 25, 2021. Accessed January 25, 2024. https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/animal-disease-information/avian/defend-the-flock-program/outbreak-illness/outbreak-illness
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