Avian Influenza

Disease Information

Influenza is a virus that can infect humans and many animal species, including poultry and other birds. Influenza is not uncommon and it has been around for centuries. Influenza in poultry is not a food safety issue.

Influenza in poultry falls into two groups: low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI), or highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). Similar to influenza symptoms in people, birds infected with LPAI usually experience only mild signs if any, including respiratory signs such as conjunctivitis and nasal discharge, ruffled feathers or a drop in egg production. Unlike LPAI, the first indication of HPAI in poultry is sudden death, often without signs of illness.

Clemson Livestock Poultry Health continues to work together with South Carolina’s poultry industry and other state and federal agencies to prepare for and respond to introductions of influenza in poultry. The state’s voluntary cooperative control plan includes education, monitoring, reporting, and response. Testing for influenza in poultry is conducted at the Clemson Veterinary Diagnostic Center in Columbia. Commercial and non-commercial poultry flocks are routinely monitored for influenza.


Report sick or dead poultry 803-788-2260 (Monday – Friday, 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM) or Online report form

Report sick or dead wild waterfowl 800-922-5431 (DNR)

Food Safety & Human Health
Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza does not pose a risk to the food supply.  Any Highly Pathogen Avian Influenza (HPAI) infected flocks would be depopulated and would not enter the food chain.  All commercial poultry flocks are routinely sampled for avian influenza and the US has the strongest AI surveillance program in the world.  As a reminder, the proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 ˚F kills bacteria and viruses.

The risk of a human becoming ill with avian influenza during poultry outbreaks is very low. The strains of HPAI that have circulated in North America have no history of causing human illness. 

Response Zones

When a South Carolina premises is identified with highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), on-the-ground response efforts begin immediately. Animal health officials carry out a number of activities according to protocols established by the U. S. Department of Agriculture in order to manage the disease and reduce any potential risk of its spread. These activities take place not only on the infected premises, but also in the area around the infected premises called the control area.

Infected Site

Premises infected with HPAI are placed under quarantine, prohibiting the movement of poultry and poultry products on or off of the infected site. The USDA works with infected flock owners to develop a flock plan which includes appraisal and indemnity agreements for depopulation of poultry that remain on the premises. After depopulation of the flock, all poultry carcasses on the infected farms are composted inside of the barns or buried with approval of SC DHEC.

Control Area

The control area is a 10 km zone established around infected flocks. Within this zone, animal health officials work to identify premises with commercial and backyard poultry. Poultry flocks inside of the control area undergo surveillance in accordance with USDA protocols. All poultry producers in the control area also comply with stringent biosecurity and permitting protocols in order to move poultry or poultry products off of their farms. 

Identification and Announcement of HPAI Cases in South Carolina

There are several steps involved in confirming that a poultry flock is positive for a highly-pathogenic strain of avian influenza. Here is an outline of that process which includes timing of public notification:

  1. A poultry producer or backyard flock owner notices unusual death loss or other signs of illness in their birds.

  2. The individual notifies their veterinarian or an animal health official.

  3. Samples are collected from the birds on the premises.

  4. Samples are submitted to an approved state laboratory for preliminary testing.

  5. State laboratories are able to determine if the samples are positive for an H5 or H7 influenza virus. If samples are positive for an H5 or H7 virus, they are considered as presumptive positives and are forwarded to the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa.

  6. NVSL is the only laboratory in the United States that is authorized to officially confirm the presence of a HPAI and identify the specific strain of virus. When NVSL confirms HPAI, the USDA shares that information with the public by posting online:  USDA Summary of HPAI Findings

Collaborative Effort

Even before Highly-Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)  was identified in U.S., we had a plan for how we would control and eliminate the disease if it ever came to our state. When the time comes, we will put this plan into action, but we are not doing it alone. Through the establishment of an Incident Command System (ICS), the agencies are able to share facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communications to effectively and efficiently respond to a domestic incident under urgent conditions.  Read about how our state and federal agencies are working alongside poultry producers to prevent and, if necessary, eliminate HPAI in South Carolina. 

  • Clemson Livestock Poultry Health – LPH is the state’s animal health authority (SC State Veterinarian’s Office) to protect animal health through control of endemic, foreign and emerging diseases in livestock and poultry.  During an HPAI event, LPH is the lead response agency for on-the-ground operations and communications. LPH works closely with and under advisement of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on defining disease control zones, testing and quarantine procedures and public release of information.

  • Clemson Veterinary Diagnostic Center – CVDC is the state’s animal diagnostic laboratory to assist veterinarians, animal industry and animal owners with livestock, poultry, companion animal and wildlife disease problems.  The Center is an integral part of a disease surveillance system through required disease testing for the state’s livestock, poultry and equine industries and conducting necropsies on animals.  During an HPAI event, CVDC is the laboratory in which avian influenza testing will be performed from SC flocks in corroboration with the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory.

  • USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)–Veterinary Services (VS) – VS protects and improves the health, quality, and marketability of our nation's animals, animal products, and veterinary biologics by preventing, controlling, and/or eliminating animal diseases, and monitoring, and promoting animal health and productivity.  During an HPAI event, VS is our federal partners in responding to HPAI.

  • SC Poultry Industries – South Carolina’s broiler, turkey and egg industries work closely with LPH to coordinate the communication of the latest disease information to their growers.  During an HPAI event, the poultry industries will assist LPH with field operations and educational outreach to their growers.

  • Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service – Clemson Extension provides education materials and programs for the livestock, poultry and equine industries, niche producers, extension educators, youth, and consumers.  During an HPAI event, Extension will assist LPH with field operations and educational outreach.

  • SC Department of Agriculture -The SCDA promotes and nurtures the growth and development of South Carolina's agriculture industry and its related businesses while assuring the safety and security of the buying public. During an HPAI event, SCDA will assist LPH with field operations and communications.

  • SC Department of Health & Environmental Control – DHEC is the state agency charged with protecting public health, coastal resources and the state’s land, air and water quality.  During an HPAI event, DHEC will coordinate with animal health agencies and the poultry industry to identify, protect, and monitor the health of poultry workers and responders in direct contact with HPAI infected birds and serves as a source of information for the public on any human health risks.  DHEC also regulates the disposal of HPAI infected flocks.

  • USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)–Wildlife Services (WS) – WS provides federal leadership and expertise to resolve wildlife conflicts to allow people and wildlife to coexist.  WS is working with SC DNR in conducting influenza surveillance in wild, migratory birds in order to provide HPAI infection risk information to domestic poultry producers and to the greater agricultural and USDA community.

  • SC Department of Natural Resources – The DNR works in concert with other state and federal agencies to coordinate wildlife surveillance and educate stakeholders on disease issues and formulate and implement wildlife disease response plans.