Officials urge vigilance, precaution for avian flu virus

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.

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.

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).

Author: Duane Childers

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