By Jessica Mathews /

The highly contagious bird flu has now been detected in Livingston County.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza or HPAI (high path) has been confirmed in a small backyard flock of birds in Livingston County. No human illness has been identified and all individuals potentially exposed to the birds have been contacted. That brings to four the number of southeastern Michigan counties where the virus has been detected.

The Livingston County Health Department says it is sharing the information to alert people who own or work with birds, including poultry, to the possibility of infection and to recommend precautions.

HPAI in birds is not a food safety concern. People cannot get avian influenza by eating properly cooked poultry products. Both wild and domestic birds, including chickens, can be infected with avian influenza viruses.

HPAI spreads easily among birds and – while rare – can spread from birds to people. It further causes severe economic losses to farmers, thus increasing food costs to consumers.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk to people from HPAI viruses to be low. To date, no human HPAI infections have been detected in the United States.

The state Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said the local premise where the bird flu was found is under quarantine and the birds have been destroyed to prevent further spread of the disease. The flock contained about 20 birds of multiple species. The department says the finding underscores the ongoing high risk for the disease in Michigan and it is urging poultry owners β€œto implement every strategy necessary to protect their flocks.

Spread of avian flu viruses from a bird to a person mainly happens through droplets, the same way that human flu viruses spread. Health officials advise that birds or flocks infected with HPAI may not show routine signs of illness. However, sudden death is said to be a major indicator.

More information, as well as signs, symptoms and reporting numbers are available in the attached press release.