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Tens of thousands of birds euthanized after avian flu found in 2 Colorado counties

The Highly Pathogenic H5N1 Avian Influenza was detected this week in commercial and backyard poultry operations, the state said.

COLORADO, USA — Avian flu was confirmed this week in poultry operations in Montrose and La Plata counties, leading to the euthanasia of thousands of birds, according to the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

The Montrose County case was confirmed Wednesday in a commercial poultry operation. The 60,000 bird flock is being euthanized to control the spread of the virus, the agriculture department said.

The La Plata County case was confirmed Thursday in a backyard poultry operation flock. The flock was experiencing significant illness and was euthanized days before, the department said.

> Video above: 9Health expert weighs in on bird flu outbreak

The Highly Pathogenic H5N1 Avian Influenza (HPAI) virus has been identified in commercial operations and backyard flocks in 29 states and has killed about 28 million poultry across the country, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

No human cases of HPAI have been detected in the United States.

HPAI isn't a food safety risk. Poultry and eggs are safe to eat when handled and cooked properly, the state agriculture department said.

In birds, the avian flu has a mortality rate of 90% to 100% within a few days. 

RELATED: Bird flu in Colorado: How you can protect your flocks

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Because of the Montrose County outbreak, the Colorado Veterinarian's Office issued a quarantine order in parts of Montrose and Delta counties to limit the movement of birds in and out of those areas. Commercial and backyard poultry operations in the quarantine are required to stop movement of poultry and poultry products, the state agriculture department said.

Here's some information for bird owners from Colorado State University and the state agriculture department on HPAI:

Signs of avian influenza in birds

  • Extreme depression
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Decrease in feed or water intake
  • Swelling or purple discoloration of head, eyelids, comb, wattle and hocks
  • Decrease in egg production
  • Sudden unexplained death

How is avian flu transmitted?

  • Food traffic
  • Secretions from the bird
  • Contact with infected droppings
  • Movement of sick birds
  • Contaminated clothing and equipment

How to protect flocks from avian flu

  • Cover coops and runs, and keep birds inside
  • Wash your hands before entering a coop. Don't handle other people's birds.
  • Wear dedicated flock clothing and shoes.
  • Avoid feed stores and other places with poultry.
  • Avoid parks and other places with waterfowl.
  • Don't share equipment. Regularly disinfect equipment that comes in contact with poultry.
  • Don't attract wild birds. Remove wild bird feeders.
  • Feed birds in the coop. Clean up feed spills and remove standing water.
  • Monitor your flock for signs of HPAI

How to report HPAI deaths in birds

  • Report any suspicious disease events in poultry to the State Veterinarian's Office at 303-869-9130.
  • If you have sick birds or birds that have died from unknown causes, CSU offers help at the Colorado Avian Health Call Line at 970-297-4008.
  • For dead domestic birds, submit to the CSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Fort Collins for free HPAI testing: 970-297-4008 or 970-297-1281.
  • If you find three or more dead wild birds in a specific area within a two-week period or if you see live birds showing signs of disease, contact your local Colorado Parks and Wildlife office.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has more tips and resources at its website for its Defend the Flock Program on biosecurity and signs of illness.

> Below: The Colorado Department of Agriculture map showing dates and locations of HPAI reports in the state:

RELATED: Denver Zoo moves birds inside to protect them from avian flu

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