State officials warn against bird flu for poultry farms

State officials warn against bird flu for poultry farms

CLEMSON, SC (WMBF) - South Carolina officials are asking the public to keep an eye out for a strain of avian flu that has been identified in seven states and is potentially deadly to poultry.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Avian influenza, sometimes called bird flu, refers to the disease caused by infection with avian (bird) influenza (flu) Type A viruses. These viruses occur naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species. Avian flu viruses do not normally infect humans. However, sporadic human infections with avian flu viruses have occurred. The links below offer information about avian influenza for different audiences.

The following information was issued by Clemson University:

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) so far has been identified in backyard and commercial poultry flocks, wild ducks and geese from Oregon to Arkansas.

While not considered a threat to public health or the food supply, the disease could be devastating to poultry farms, which generate more than a billion dollars annually in the Palmetto State.

"To date, these HPAI strains have not been shown to be a health risk to the public. However, these viruses can be deadly to other types of poultry, such as chickens, turkeys, guinea fowl, pheasants and quail," said Boyd Parr, state veterinarian and director of Clemson University Livestock-Poultry Health.

"These HPAI virus strains can be carried by wild waterfowl without these birds appearing sick," Parr said. "We'd like poultry producers, whether they are backyard flock owners or commercial producers, to continue to follow good biosecurity steps to protect their flocks."

Parr said South Carolina continues to perform routine avian influenza surveillance as an early detection tool in commercial and backyard flocks, and at auctions, shows and flea markets that include poultry.

He suggests that bird owners keep their flocks, including domesticated ducks and geese, separated from wild waterfowl and from lakes, ponds and swampy areas that wild waterfowl may use. Duck hunters should keep their hunting clothes, equipment and dead game away from their own poultry flocks.

Additional precautions include:

- Keep a closed flock. Beware of bringing new birds, and possibly a new disease, into your flock. Separate new birds from the home flock for four weeks to see if they show any signs of disease. Get new birds only from reputable breeders.

- After visiting another poultry facility and before working with your birds, shower and change clothing and footwear. Restrict visitors from your production area or have them wear protective clothing and footwear.

- Do not share equipment or vehicles from other farms. If you do share, wash and disinfect the items before and after use.

- Keep pests, such as rodents, raccoons and opossums away from bird houses and pens. These pests share the same habitats as wild waterfowl and also can spread the disease.

To report severely sick birds or unusual bird deaths in domesticated poultry, contact the S.C. State Veterinarian's Office (803-788-2260) or the USDA state office (803-462-2910). For wild birds, contact the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (803-922-5431).

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