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Energy & Environment

Ag Officials Fear Avian Flu Headed To NC

USDA_Chicken.jpg
USDA
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A chicken

North Carolina agriculture officials are warning poultry farmers to prepare for the avian flu this fall. The virus has already wreaked havoc in northern poultry states, and the worry is that it will travel south.

This year’s strains of avian flu aren’t the ones that jumped to humans and caused panic in the early 2000s. But, they’re particularly vicious to birds, says state agriculture department spokeswoman Jen Kendrick.

“This is a much stronger virus for poultry than we’ve seen in the past,” says Kendrick. “It’s highly, highly contagious among the birds. They pass it to each other very quickly and also it’s very high mortality.”

The disease has infected more than 40 million birds in Iowa and Minnesota this year, leading to declarations of states of emergencies.

Now, with weather cooling, wild birds could carry the virus as they migrate south. That could be a big problem in North Carolina, where poultry is one of the top agricultural products.

State regulators say backyard poultry owners should separate their birds by species to prevent cross-infection, and all farmers should use dedicated clothes and shoes when handling them.