HPAI Prevention and Preparedness

By Abby Schuft, Associate Extension Professor and Extension Educator, University of Minnesota Prevent Biosecurity The very first steps to preventing an introduction of HPAI are to have a biosecurity plan and use it. Many gamebird farms and hunting clubs have not been required to have biosecurity plan audits because the lower number of birds they...

By Abby Schuft, Associate Extension Professor and Extension Educator, University of Minnesota

Photo by digicomphoto - iStock



The very first steps to preventing an introduction of HPAI are to have a biosecurity plan and use it. Many gamebird farms and hunting clubs have not been required to have biosecurity plan audits because the lower number of birds they raise, or house, exempts them. However, if HPAI hits your location, you will need to provide a biosecurity plan to officials to be paid indemnity. It is much easier to develop a biosecurity plan during a non-emergency than under the stress of a disease outbreak.

The National Poultry Improvement Plan website has guides and forms to help get you started (poultryimprovement.org). University of Minnesota Extension has built a learning center you can use as an additional resource that breaks down each of the biosecurity principles described by NPIP. See “NPIP Biosecurity Guidelines and Audit Process in Minnesota”.

Elements of biosecurity should include locking down who has access to your premises, and limiting travel and visits to other locations with birds (poultry, gamebird or waterfowl).

Separate multiple species

A very important component of biosecurity on game farms and hunting clubs is keeping species separated from each other. Commingling species in a shared building or placing them in adjacent pens is considered high risk for HPAI transmission. When caring for the birds each day, care for the waterfowl species last, and be sure to change clothes and shower before returning to the areas that house pheasants or other non-waterfowl birds.


Each person who steps foot onto your premises needs to follow these protocols you have established. This can include parcel delivery drivers and others bringing fuel, supplies, feed, etc. If customers come to your premises in any capacity, make certain that they are informed of the polices, and most importantly why you have them. If you are affected by HPAI, you will not be able to provide them with birds or the hunt experiences they desire.

Your employees or family members who work on-site need to follow your biosecurity standards all day, every day. The virus is not selective about where it finds a home. If you have birds on your premises, you are at risk. Training your employees, animal care technicians, customers and service providers can help reduce the risk of accidental introduction of HPAI.

Secure Upland Gamebird Supply Plan (SUGS)

The SUGS plan allows for the continuation of your business when you are not infected with HPAI but are affected by being in a control area. Movements of birds or product out of a control area or into a control area carry a high risk of moving the virus. The risks of these movements were evaluated scientifically while considering common upland gamebird industry practice. If your business plans to move birds or products during an outbreak, you will need to be familiar with SUGS and movement permit guidance to continue your business transactions. You can access this information at secureuplandgamebirdsupply.com.



Train your employees to look for signs of HPAI, and instruct them whom to call if there are issues. Sadly, the most common clinical sign of HPAI across all avian species in 2022 has been unexplained death. Producers have reported quiet and decreased activity, as well as a decrease in water consumption. Signs include:

  • Increased mortality
  • Quiet flocks
  • Potential discoloration of eggs
  • Neurological signs such as “stargazing”
  • Closed eyes
  • Lethargy, little movement
  • Swelling of and around the eyes


Periods of high risk are ideal for reviewing the biosecurity plan you have in place. Now is also the time to enhance biosecurity for your business. Maybe you will more strictly control who has access to certain areas of your premises. Maybe you will make more frequent rounds of the flight pens.

In addition to enhanced biosecurity plans, consider creating an emergency plan. Having an idea of what can be done ahead of an emergency can speed up depopulation efforts and help your case manager by minimizing the additional time needed to make plans.

Start by documenting your ideal depopulation and disposal plans. Depopulation of gamebirds on a large scale is usually by carbon dioxide (CO2). A video from the USDA may help you better understand this process and provide ideas about how it may work on your premises. See “NVS Development of CO2 Whole House Gassing for Emergency Depopulation of Poultry”.

To streamline the process of moving birds to a general locale, consider mapping your pens and the potential routes you could use to move them.

Next, determine your company disposal plan. Knowing what your disposal plan could be will take some homework on your part — you need to understand the rules and regulations of your state and local officials. On the same map suggested above, indicate where you could compost or bury on-site.

Considerations for composting include:

  • Where on your site would you do this?
  • What carbon sources do you have access to?
    • Connect with your county emergency manager to help locate additional carbon sources such as local compost facilities.
  • To whom can you reach out for contract work to help, including equipment and labor?

Burial could be an option for disposal, but you will need to reach out to your state to determine if this is even allowable for each location. Questions to ask state officials could include:

  • Are there restrictions?
  • How much space would you need?

Disposing of the mortalities could also take place at a landfill. Again, do some homework ahead of time with your local officials and the landfill directly to determine if this is a feasible option.


If your state allows you to take official testing samples, be sure you understand how to complete the sample submission form thoroughly and correctly, and what type of sample to submit (i.e., oropharyngeal/mouth or cloacal/rectal swabs). Take inventory of your sampling supplies for each site, and order extras if necessary. If a state official has to do your sampling, collect the contact information and post this in an obvious and highly visible location.


What supplies do you have on hand, and what might you need to purchase to help make depopulation and disposal swifter? Take inventory of supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE). Do you have what you require beyond everyday needs? Perform maintenance on equipment and machinery that isn’t used frequently so it is in running order. Purchase items you think you might need to assist in moving or holding birds on a large scale. These items will likely be determined as you decide on potential plans for depopulation and disposal.

Human Health

Avian influenza can be zoonotic, meaning it can pass to humans and vice versa. However, this is rare in the United States. The federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) considers the risk to human health to be low. Precautions should still be taken for each person on an infected premises, including adequate PPE, including covering hands, head, body, eyes and feet. An N95 mask, at minimum, should be worn, though other National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-approved respirators are recommended.

Additional Resources

USDA HPAI Resource website.

Flock Plan—this is from spring 2022, but you will get the general idea of what information will be required if you have an HPAI-infected flock.