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Poultry owners advised to monitor birds for signs of avian flu after massive outbreak

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HARTFORD -  The Department of Agriculture advised poultry owners in the state to monitor their birds closely for signs of an avian influenza virus.

The virus has caused more than 7 million chickens and turkeys in 13 states in the Midwest and West to be destroyed.

There have been no confirmed cases in the Northeast, according the Connecticut Department of Agriculture. Right now, the risk of transmitting the virus to  humans and the food system is considered low by the CDC, but it is something to watch. 

Officials say there is the potential for it to arrive here via wild birds, especially waterfowl. They have spread the highly-contagious disease to domestic flocks in other states. There are an estimated 5 million domestic poultry birds in the state.

“We’re dealing with a virus that came in on wild birds moving out of their winter nesting area and migrating back to their home territory,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Mary J. Lis,.  “If it enters the Atlantic Flyway migratory path, we potentially could see it here during the fall migration.”

The virus was first detected in the U.S. last December in California and is thought to have originated in the Asian Flyway.

The USDA has confirmed cases in the Pacific, Central, and Mississippi flyways, among both backyard and commercial poultry flocks.

Arkansas, California, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota. Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin have had cases.

Symptoms in birds include lethargy, respiratory distress, facial swelling, decreased egg production and sudden death without clinical signs.

Anyone who notices these signs is advised to contact the department who will examine birds suspected of dying from the virus.

Polutry owners are advised to keep domestic birds away from wild ones by closing holes in coops, installing bird netting and preventing the spread of the virus through manure, equipment, vehicles, egg flats, crates, and people whose clothing or shoes have come in contact with the virus, according to the department.

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection monitors the wild bird population.

The Agriculture Department inspects and monitors poultry and eggs imported into the state. Large commercial operations are inspected regularly and markets and live poultry markets are inspected quarterly.

Suspected cases of the virus may also be reported to the USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593.

More information is available here.

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