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Avian Flu Fears Loom Ahead Of Fall Bird Migration

A picture of chickens.
woodley wonderworks
Free range hens, near their coop and surrounded by electrified poultry netting

The fall bird migration season has poultry producers concerned.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said avian flu is not dangerous to humans, but it is highly contagious among birds and can wipe out entire poultry flocks.

"This disease can hit a backyard operation and a confinement operation just as easily. It could potentially impact an urban operation, but it shouldn't be perceived as a human health issue," Vilsack said.

Losing further flocks could continue to drive up the cost of eggs and chicken.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture has canceled bird shows at state and county fairs this year because of concern over the highly contagious avian flu.

More than 48 million birds have been impacted nationwide. North Carolina has not had a case reported since the December outbreak impacted 21 states. Vilsack said many states have also canceled bird shows.

"But I think the focus primarily needs to be, at this point in time, on individual producers looking at their biosecurity measures and making sure that they are as tight as they possibly can be," Vilsack said.

"Folks need to think about holes in their facility where birds might be able to enter. They need to think about the process that they require of people and machinery moving in and out of an operation, how they get sanitized, and make sure there's absolute discipline on that."

More information about the disease and how to prevent its spread on the U.S. Department of Agriculture website.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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