You may be aware that avian flu (specifically Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, or HPAI) has been detected on the East Coast among wild aquatic birds, commercial poultry and backyard flocks. According to the CDC, these are the first detections of HPAI A(H5) viruses in the U.S. since 2016. While no cases have yet been detected in Rhode Island (as of 2/26/22), West Place Animal Sanctuary is taking proactive steps to ensure the health and safety of our domestic rescue birds.
BACKGROUND: Avian flu is caused by influenza A viruses that occur naturally among birds. It can infect many different species of wild birds and is generally found in waterfowl (geese, swans, wild ducks, etc.) but does not result in high mortality rates among wild bird populations. They are able to fight off the virus on their own. Conversely, domestic birds (chickens, turkeys, domestic ducks, etc.) are unable to fight off avian flu and those infected with the virus have mortality rates of nearly 100%. The most common ways for the virus to spread are through direct contact with an infected bird, direct contact with fecal matter from an infected bird, or contact with contaminated surfaces.
WHAT WEST PLACE IS DOING: The risk from avian influenza is generally low to most people, because the viruses do not usually infect humans. However, West Place is taking precautions to protect our rescues as well as our volunteers.
Anyone working with any of our birds must wear a mask and gloves.
Everyone must sanitize their hands before and after entering any of the areas that house birds.
Everyone must ensure their clothes and boots are clean prior to arriving at West Place (a policy already in place).
All surfaces in bird houses will continue to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected (again, a practice already in place).
What we affectionally refer to as “poop loops” will be kicked into overdrive. All fecal matter, especially from wild geese, will be collected from the property with special attention given to our pond and surrounding areas.
Fecal matter from wild birds will be buried in our compost pile or covered to reduce potential exposure.
Preventing exposure to avian flu is a matter of life or death. The domestic rescues at West Place, including our peacocks, partridges, and pheasants, must be protected at all costs.
We thank our volunteers for their vigilance and for going above and beyond.
For more information on the current status of avian flu in the U.S., please visit the websites of the CDC and the USDA.