Avian Flu Info

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) is a deadly disease for poultry. It can infect all types of chickens, turkeys and many other kinds of birds. HPAI can strike suddenly and spread fast. Infected poultry may die within hours of becoming infected. The virus can be spread by contact with infected birds or contaminated materials. Wild migratory birds are natural carriers for HPAI. Preventing wild birds from mixing with domestic flocks is essential to disease control. Poultry owners should assure their birds are kept away from wild birds, particularly waterfowl. There are a few simple steps bird owners can take to try to protect their flocks from avian influenza.

This HPAI H5N1 is not a primarily a public health concern at this time.  This is mostly a problem for domestic poultry and especially industrial producers. However, because influenza viruses mutate, federal agencies are monitoring the virus.

 - Dr. Brown, State Epidemiologist and State Public Health Veterinarian

Click here for Cape Cod bird flu facts from Wild Care.

Click here for MA Department of Agricultural Resources biosecurity information.

The best prevention is to avoid sources of exposure: Residents are encouraged to keep themselves and their pets away from dead animals.

The best way to prevent avian influenza (bird flu) is to avoid sources of exposure whenever possible. Infected birds shed bird flu virus in their saliva, mucous and feces. People rarely get bird flu; however, human infections with bird flu viruses can happen when enough virus gets into a person’s eyes, nose or mouth, or is inhaled. This can happen when virus is in the air (in droplets or possibly dust) and a person breathes it in, or when a person touches something that has virus on it and then touches their mouth, eyes or nose. Bird flu infections in people happen most often after close, prolonged and unprotected (no gloves or other protective wear) contact with infected birds and then the person touches their mouth, eyes, or nose.

Protective actions around birds: What to do if you find a dead bird

  • As a general precaution, whenever possible people should avoid direct contact with wild birds and observe them only from a distance.
  • Wild birds can be infected with avian (bird) influenza (flu) A viruses even if they don’t look sick.
  • Avoid unprotected contact with domestic birds (poultry) that look sick or have died.
  • Do not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with saliva, mucous or feces from wild or domestic birds.
  • The avian flu currently poses a low risk to humans, although people who frequently interact with birds may have a higher risk of infection, the CDC reported.
  • Any unexpected deaths in flocks or other signs of the flu should be reported immediately to the Massachusetts Division of Animal Health at 617-626-1795 or through their online reporting form.
  • Here is a form for reporting observations of dead wild birds.

Who can a resident/visitor inform when they encounter a sick or injured wild bird on Cape Cod? 

Cape Cod Wildlife Center -wildlife veterinary hospital provides rehabilitative care to sick, injured, and orphaned wild animals.

4011 Main Street, Barnstable, MA 02630 

Wildlife Hotline (508) 362-0111 

Admissions Hours: 10:00 – 3:00 Daily  

After-hours emergency line (617) 835-6845 

Form to report animal in need:

Wildlife Care | Cape Wildlife Center or https://capewildlifecenter.com/739-2/


Wild Care-treats injured, ill and orphaned native wildlife for release.  

10 Smith Lane, Eastham, MA 02642

Open daily from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

Helpline (508) 240-2255 call if you find an animal in distress

Wildlife Helpline | Wild Care (wildcarecapecod.org) or https://www.wildcarecapecod.org/animal-help-line/

Do dead birds need to be collected and tested to add data to surveillance programs that count dead wild birds and test for avian influenza?

  • Testing and surveillance decisions are made by MassWildlife and USDA.
  • To discuss if testing is warranted, especially when multiple dead birds are involved, email MassWildlife mass.wildlife@mass.gov or call the USDA at 413-253-2403.
  • Not all birds need to be tested and not all carcasses will be suitable for testing. 
  • Sick or freshly dead birds are the best samples. 
  • The circulating HPAI H5N1 virus is being carried in migratory birds so finding the virus is likely and not finding it does not mean it is absent. 

What are additional resources to learn more about highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI)?