Commercial turkeys in Virginia test positive for avian influenza

Samples from the flock tested positive, birds will not go into the food system, officials say

FILE (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File) (Charlie Neibergall, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. – A flock of commercial turkeys in Rockingham County, Virginia has tested positive for the highly pathogenic avian influenza, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Resources.

On Jan. 19, the VDACS confirmed that samples from the flock tested positive for the bird flu at the VDACS Regional Animal Health Laboratory in Harrisonburg.

“VDACS is working closely with the Virginia Poultry Federation and USDA APHIS on a joint incident response. State officials quarantined the affected premises and are performing additional surveillance and testing within a 10-kilometer radius around the affected flock,” according to a VDACS news release.

The 25,000 birds on the affected property have been removed to prevent the spread of the disease, according to the VDACS. And of course, officials said birds from the flock won’t go into the food system.

This case comes after a bald eagle was found dead at Carvins Cove and tested positive for the bird flu, as we reported.

Michael Persia, a professor and Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist of poultry nutrition and management, said that poultry owners need to take the proper precautions to protect their flocks.

“The disease could be economically devastating to the industry and could also cause backyard owners to lose their entire flock,” Persia said. “To help protect flocks, it’s important to take practical biosecurity measures to reduce and eliminate potential sources of infection.”

Officials said that no matter the size of your flock, you should review biosecurity activities to keep a check on your their health. You can view their recommendations to maintain good flock health here.

Below is a list of signs of illness in poultry, according to the USDA.

  • Swelling and purple discoloration of the comb, wattles, and eyelids;
  • Purple discoloration and swelling of the legs;
  • Open mouth breathing with moderate swelling of the comb and wattles;
  • Swelling of the eyelid and around the eye; purple discoloration in the comb and wattle;
  • Purple discoloration of the comb and wattles;
  • Purple discoloration, congestion, and swelling of the comb and wattle; swelling around the eyes; ruffled feathers.

You can see example photos of the above signs on the USDA’s website.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk to the general public from HPAI H5 infections to be low, according to a VDACS release. We’re told that while the CDC considers this type of HPAI virus as a low risk to humans, it does pose a serious threat to poultry farms and owners of backyard flocks.

To report sick birds or unusual bird deaths, you can contact the State Veterinarian’s Office at 804-692-0601 or email

About the Author:

Alli Graham came aboard the digital team as an evening digital content producer in June 2022.