First confirmed case: Avian flu detected in emu in Rowan

Published 5:11 pm Thursday, January 26, 2023

RALEIGH – An emu from Rowan County has tested positive for High Path Avian Influenza (HPAI). The positive sample was identified by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Veterinary Diagnostic Lab in Raleigh.

This is the first confirmed positive in Rowan County. In late spring and early summer, HPAI was found at nine poultry farms in Johnston and Wayne counties, and recently HPAI was found in  two flocks in Union County and single backyard flocks in Wake, Durham and Carteret counties.

“We have had evidence that the HPAI virus has remained in our resident wild bird populations and in migratory waterfowl, so continued reports of positive domesticated birds are unfortunate, but not surprising,” said State Veterinarian Mike Martin said in a news release.

This type of HPAI virus is considered a low risk to people according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, but is highly contagious to other birds, including commercial and backyard flocks of poultry. The virus is also not considered a food safety threat and infected birds do not enter the food supply.

“The threat of high path avian influenza is nationwide and likely will remain through the winter and spring,” Martin said. “Commercial operations and backyard flock owners should continue to follow strict biosecurity measures including keeping birds enclosed without access to wild birds or other domestic flocks when possible.”

If your birds are sick or dying, report it right away to your local veterinarian, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Veterinary Division at 919-707-3250, or the N.C. Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System at 919-733-3986.

Warning signs of HPAI include:

  • Reduced energy, decreased appetite, and/or decreased activity
  • Lower egg production and/or soft-shelled or misshapen eggs
  • Swelling of the head, eyelids, comb and wattles
  • Purple discoloration of the wattles, comb and legs
  • Difficulty breathing, runny nares (nose), and/or sneezing
  • Twisting of the head and neck, stumbling, falling down, tremors and/or circling
  • Greenish diarrhea


Also keep in mind that spring migration is right around the corner so practicing good biosecurity is a must during this time and may require some extra safeguards.

– move flocks away from bodies of water or other places where migratory waterfowl may congregate

– decrease the amount of time you allow your flock to “free range” or stop altogether if your setup allows

– cover coops and/or ranges with plastic or other materials to prevent wild bird droppings from being deposited in your backyard flock area

– eliminate or relocate any wild bird feeders on your property

For more information on protecting your flock or about HPAI, call the Rowan County Extension Office at 704-216-8970.