Dayton officials warn about bird flu, especially for illegal poultry owners

Dayton officials are warning the public about a highly contagious bird flu virus that they say has a low risk to humans but that has devastated farms and backyard chicken and bird flocks.

Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein said residents should be careful when they come across, handle and dispose of dead birds, and people who unlawfully keep backyard chickens or poultry may face elevated risk.

“It seems like we’re going to have some more issues with our birds here and people should keep safe,” Dickstein said at the most recent city commission meeting.

Combined ShapeCaption
Multiple roosters wandered through alleys in East Dayton in spring 2021 behind a home with a coop in the yard with clucking chickens. Dayton police receive hundreds of noise complaints every year. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Multiple roosters wandered through alleys in East Dayton in spring 2021 behind a home with a coop in the yard with clucking chickens. Dayton police receive hundreds of noise complaints every year. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Combined ShapeCaption
Multiple roosters wandered through alleys in East Dayton in spring 2021 behind a home with a coop in the yard with clucking chickens. Dayton police receive hundreds of noise complaints every year. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza was detected earlier this year in a non-commercial backyard chicken flock in Franklin County, and about 20 other birds in Ohio have been affected by this outbreak, according to the the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

That pales in comparison to the impact of the outbreak on other midwestern or neighboring states, like Iowa, which had 13.3 million birds affected; Pennsylvania (3.9 million birds) and Kentucky (284,700 birds).

The highly contagious virus spreads quickly and can infect chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, pheasants, quail and guinea fowl says the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

There is no treatment or vaccine for bird flu, and exposed and infected birds are culled.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says bird flu detections do not present an immediate public health concern, and the agency only recently recorded the first U.S. human case involving this particular virus.

But experts recommend poultry owners look for signs of illness; follow various sanitation measures; prevent their birds from coming into contact with wild ones and take other steps.

Dayton last year had issues with dead birds, and the threat of human infection, while small, is a concern, officials said.

“People should avoid unprotected exposure to sick or dead birds, bird feces, litter or materials contaminated by birds with suspected or confirmed virus infection,” said Dayton City Manager Dickstein.

Combined ShapeCaption
Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Combined ShapeCaption
Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Backyard chicken coops are illegal in Dayton, but that hasn’t stopped some residents from keeping poultry, including chicken, ducks and geese.

Officials and Audubon groups in states including Illinois and Michigan recently recommended taking down birth feeders and bird baths until infections decline.

Combined ShapeCaption
This file photo shows egg-producing chickens in a barn at the Heartland Quality Egg Farm in Logan County, Ohio. Avian flu has decimated chicken and turkey flocks across a dozen states. Photo by Jim Witmer / Dayton Daily News

This file photo shows egg-producing chickens in a barn at the Heartland Quality Egg Farm in Logan County, Ohio. Avian flu has decimated chicken and turkey flocks across a dozen states. Photo by Jim Witmer / Dayton Daily News

Combined ShapeCaption
This file photo shows egg-producing chickens in a barn at the Heartland Quality Egg Farm in Logan County, Ohio. Avian flu has decimated chicken and turkey flocks across a dozen states. Photo by Jim Witmer / Dayton Daily News

Local officials said the outbreak needs to be monitored closely, but they don’t think the threat is serious enough at this time to necessitate such measures.

“Until we get to a point where we see human-to-human transmission, this really is a very, very low concern,” said David Gerstner, a Dayton Fire Department senior paramedic who is the regional coordinator of the Metropolitan Medical Response System. “According to the CDC and everything I’ve read, this is a low risk.”

Transmission of influenza A H5N1 rarely occurs between people, and it has not produced an outbreak with sustained transmission in people, said Dr. Michael Dohn, medical director of Public Health — Dayton & Montgomery County.

The one person in the United States who contracted the virus worked with culling infected flocks, he said.

About the Author