Local Farmers Urged to Take Precautions Against Bird Flu

The bird flu virus has now been detected in five states

FARGO, N.D. — The North Dakota Department of Health is urging local farmers to take precautions as the list of states with the bird flu grows.

Georgia has just been added to the list which already includes Tennessee, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Alabama.

Avian Influenza, otherwise known as the bird flu, can be transmitted by both direct contact and through air.

“The biggest risk is in these poultry houses, especially with what we call the high path avian influenza, because you can lose an entire house because of this virus,” said Dr. Gerald Stokka, NDSU Extension Veterinarian.

The virus can travel fast.

“In the last bird flu outbreak that we had in the United States, even in North Dakota, we had to depopulate some poultry operations,” said Dr. Stokka. “Just euthanize all of the birds and have to start over again and make sure that virus is no longer there.”

The 2015 outbreak also hurt producers in Minnesota.

Millions of birds were destroyed and it cost the state economy nearly $650 million.

But it also taught many farmers in the state how to protect their farms from the virus.

“Enforce good bio-security on their farm,” said Dr. Shauna Voss, a senior veterinarian with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. “Specific details of that might mean eliminating opportunities for poultry to interact with wild birds or their environment.”

Other tactics include having a designated set of clothes and shoes for use inside poultry barns.

“We have to shower in-shower out, especially in swine operations,” added Dr. Stokka. “It’s for that very reason. We don’t want to carry something in to those pigs or this case poultry that they are naive to.”

The virus is found worldwide and birds can travel fast with no restriction.

That’s why the risk for contamination is continually increasing.

“That’s the risk to our domestic populations of poultry,” said Dr. Stokka. “We don’t control migration of waterfowl. They will go wherever they were migrating before.”

Some birds, including ducks, are known to carry the virus but not show any symptoms.

That’s why veterinarians are urging poultry producers to be alert year round.

“Seeing what’s happening in other parts of the country kind of helps to raise that awareness,” said Dr.Voss.

Dr. Stokka said there is no reason to worry about consuming the poultry you buy at the store as long as you are thoroughly cooking it.

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