Highly pathogenic avian influenza confirmed in backyard poultry in La Plata County 


The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) has confirmed the detection of Highly Pathogenic H5N1 Avian Influenza (HPAI) virus in a mixed species backyard poultry operation in La Plata County. 

The State Veterinarian’s office was notified by a flock owner about an increase of sickness and mortality in a mixed species poultry flock in La Plata County on April 14. A veterinarian in Durango sampled two of the sick birds and submitted samples to the CSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for testing, with confirmation of HPAI made by NVSL on April 20. The flock was experiencing significant illness and was humanely euthanized on April 17. 

Avian influenza does not present a food safety risk; poultry and eggs are safe to eat when handled and cooked properly. No human cases of avian influenza viruses have been detected in the United States. In birds, HPAI has a mortality rate of 90%-100% within just a few days, so flock surveillance and disease reporting are critical to containing the spread of the virus. 

Anyone who notices any signs of illness or disease in their flocks should immediately notify the State Veterinarian’s office at 303-869-9130. 

Poultry owners across Colorado are advised to review and increase their biosecurity measures and monitor their flocks for clinical signs of HPAI, which include sudden death without clinical signs; lack of energy or appetite; decreased egg production; soft-shelled or misshapen eggs; swelling or purple discoloration of head, eyelids, comb, hocks; nasal discharge; coughing; sneezing; incoordination; and diarrhea. 

Bird owners should immediately report any illness or death in their flocks to the Colorado State Veterinarian’s office. Dead birds should be double-bagged and refrigerated for possible testing, away from human food or other avian products. 

Bird owners struggling with stress or anxiety around HPAI can contact Colorado Crisis Services by calling 1-844-494-TALK (8255) or texting TALK to 38255. Farmers and ranchers can receive a voucher for six free sessions with an ag-competent provider through the Colorado Agricultural Addiction and Mental Health Program (campforhealth.com). 

What bird owners can do:  

  • INCREASE BIOSECURITY: Poultry owners must immediately increase biosecurity measures to protect their birds from HPAI. The USDA Defend the Flock website has helpful resources for keeping poultry healthy in any operation. Commercial poultry producers can use this toolkit to assess their biosecurity practices and preparedness. 
  • MONITOR: Monitor your flock for clinical signs of HPAI, including monitoring production parameters (feed and water consumption, egg production) and increased illness and death. Any changes in production parameters that could indicate HPAI should be reported. 
  • REPORT: Veterinarians and producers must report any suspicious disease events in poultry flocks to the State Veterinarian’s office at 303-869-9130. If it is after hours, the voicemail message will indicate which veterinarian is on call. 

If you have sick birds or birds that have died from unknown causes, help is available at the Colorado Avian Health Call Line at CSU, 970-297-4008. 

Wild birds: If you find three or more dead wild birds in a specific area within a two-week period OR if you see live birds showing clinical signs of disease, please contact your local Colorado Parks and Wildlife office. 

Additional information and resources: 

CDA: Avian Influenza 

USDA: Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza & Defend the Flock Center for Food Security and Public Health: Poultry Biosecurity Download full resolution HPAI graphic 

Tips For Flock Owners: 

Protect Your Birds from the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). HPAI is a highly contagious and fatal foreign animal disease in domestic poultry. Wild birds serve as a reservoir for influenza viruses and can spread these viruses to poultry. Flock owners should review and increase their biosecurity measures. 

  • INCREASE BIOSECURITY: Check your plans and make sure everyone knows what safety practices are being used and implemented. 
  • MONITOR FLOCKS: Monitor production parameters (like feed and water consumption). signs of HPAI. or other changes in bird behavior. 
  • REPORT DISEASE: Report suspicious disease events in your commercial or back yard flocks to the State Veterinarian’s office. 
  • SECURE FOOD SUPPLY: Enroll as a Secure Food Supply (SFS) participant through the State Veterinarian’s office. 

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