A highly pathogenic avian influenza has been detected for the first time in Maine, federal officials said Sunday.

State officials quarantined the property in Knox County and the backyard flock will be eliminated to prevent the spread of the disease, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Federal and state officials will conduct additional surveillance and testing in the area around the affected flock.

The virus is often spread to domestic poultry by infected wild birds. The avian flu represents no immediate public health concern, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No human cases have been detected in the United States.

U.S. surveillance efforts have identified the virus in wild birds in a number of states including New Hampshire, where it was detected this month in 20 wild ducks.

Bird owners should prevent contact between their birds and wild birds and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to state or federal officials.

The Maine Department of Health and Human services did not respond to inquiries about the detected virus.


Influenza viruses are generally avian viruses and more common in birds than people, said Dora Anne Mills, chief health improvement officer at MaineHealth.

“Most of the avian strains do not cause known harm to humans,” Mills said in an email Sunday.

Rarely, strains can infect humans or exchange genes with a human influenza virus, as when a poultry worker infected with a human virus also contracts an avian version. That can result in spread like what happened in the 2009 H1N1 “swine flu” pandemic, said Mills, former director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This risk of genetic mixing and outbreaks among fowl is why backyard or commercial fowl are supposed to be housed under wired or other roofs, in order to keep them away from migratory birds, which can transmit these viruses.”

Staff Writer Peter McGuire contributed reporting. 

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