(WPRI) — A small backyard flock in Newport County recently fell victim to the avian flu, marking the state’s first reported outbreak, according to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM).

The DEM said the noncommercial flock, which consisted of chickens, ducks and turkeys, was humanely euthanized Friday.

It is believed that the domesticated birds came into contact with wild waterfowl, which are known to more commonly carry and spread the disease, according to the DEM.

The DEM said euthanizing the small flock in its entirety was necessary to not only eliminate a potential source of infection, but also to limit the sick birds’ suffering.

The avian flu, commonly known as the “bird flu,” has a mortality rate of more than 90% among most species, according to the DEM.

“Without control of the spread by humanely killing infected birds, all poultry could be wiped out across the state,” the DEM explained.

The site of the outbreak will be under quarantine for a minimum of 120 days to ensure the virus is eliminated from the environment.

While humans can contract the virus, the DEM said the public health risk is low.

“All poultry owners need to have a biosecurity plan in place and implement that plan,” State Veterinarian Dr. Scott Marshall said. “It has been well documented that most of the noncommercial flocks that have been infected have had poor or nonexistent biosecurity practices in place, and most commercial flocks that were infected had a written biosecurity plan, but there were breaks in the practices.”

Marshall said biosecurity plans should include the following:

  • Restrict access and keep people away from domestic bird flocks
  • Keep domesticated flocks separated from all wild birds, especially migratory waterfowl
  • Keep cages, coops and clothes clean and disinfected
  • Properly dispose of dead birds
  • Don’t share equipment with other poultry producers or farmers
  • Know the warning signs of infectious diseases among domestic flocks
  • Report sick birds or unusual deaths to the DEM