Massachusetts has been dealing with an ongoing outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A (HPAI) H5N1 virus since early 2022. This same virus, commonly known as bird flu, is affecting wild and domestic bird populations in other states across the country. In March of 2024, the USDA announced that they had found HPAI infected cows at a dairy farm in Texas. It is believed that the cattle were infected through exposure to infected wild birds. 

While there have only been two confirmed cases in humans since 2022, henkeepers should take steps to protect themselves and their flock from exposure to HPAI and other infectious agents spread by poultry. 

  • When handling live hens, cleaning hen enclosures, and otherwise interacting with poultry, henkeepers should thoroughly wash their hands before and after conducting activities. Wearing latex or nitrile gloves while handling poultry and poultry byproducts can provide additional protection in addition to handwashing. 
  • Henkeepers should be vigilant to keep their flock segregated from any migratory waterfowl, such as geese or ducks.
  • Henkeepers and the general public should avoid the raw consumption of poultry products and dairy products. Instead, choose pasteurized milk and other dairy products. The appropriate cooking of eggs should kill infectious agents of HPAI as well as other bacterial and viral diseases.
  • Learn the signs and symptoms of flock infection. If you believe your flock has been affected by HPAI, consult your local veterinarian immediately. Any unexpected deaths or other signs of sick birds should be reported immediately to the state’s Division of Animal Health at 617-626-1795 or through this online reporting form on Mass.gov.


Updated: May 29, 2024