Department of Agriculture

Supporting Arkansas farmers and ranchers while ensuring safe food, fiber, and forest products for the citizens of Arkansas, the nation, and across the globe

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) is caused by an influenza type A virus which can infect poultry and wild birds. HPAI virus strains are extremely infections, often fatal to chickens, and can spread rapidly from flock to flock. There are no treatments or vaccines available to control avian influenza. The only available control is depopulation all affected and exposed flocks. Signs can include

  • Sudden increase in bird deaths without any clinical signs
  • Decreased water and feed intake
  • Lack of energy
  • Decrease in egg production
  • Soft- or thin-shelled or misshapen eggs
  • Swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles, and hocks
  • Purple discoloration of the wattles, comb, and legs
  • Gasping for air (difficulty breathing)
  • Coughing, sneezing, and/or nasal discharge (runny nose)
  • Stumbling or falling down
  • Diarrhea

Poultry owners should monitor their flocks and report any possible symptoms to the Arkansas Department of Agriculture at 501-823-1746.

Wild birds that are infected can shed the virus at high levels in their manure. One gram of contaminated manure can infect one million birds. There are a few measures you can take to keep your backyard or commercial flocks safe:

  • Clean: Wash your hands, change or clean your shoes, and disinfect any equipment before and after entering your flock area. Avian influenza virus can survive in manure for several weeks, especially with high moisture and low temperatures.
  • Cover: Restrict flocks from sharing their habitat with wild waterfowl by maintaining outdoor enclosures with roofs or tarps and wire mesh or netted sides. Repair any holes or tears that would allow wild birds or rodents to enter.
  • Isolate: Keep track of everyone who comes onto your property at all times by using a logbook. If they had contact with other poultry, have pet birds, or had contact with wild birds (e.g., hunting), do not let them come in contact with your flock. Consider hanging a bird deterrent near the poultry houses to keep away wild birds that may infect your flock. Quarantine new birds for at least two weeks before introducing to your flock.

Arkansas Avian Influenza Emergency Rule

As further mitigation against confirmed cases of HPAI in surrounding states, the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Livestock & Poultry Commission promulgated the Arkansas Avian Influenza Emergency Rule (Emergency Rule) on March 15, 2022.  The new Emergency Rule will be in effect from March 23 to July 20, 2022. 

Among other biosecurity measures, the Emergency Rule requires all free range and backyard poultry to be confined under a roof or inside a structure to prevent contamination from infected migratory birds flying overhead or by direct exposure to wild birds.

Find the Amended Emergency Rule here.

Additional Resources

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides resources on biosecurity for poultry operations through their Defend the Flock campaign, which can be found here.

More information on HPAI can be found here.

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