Concerns are growing around the recent spread of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) throughout the state. More commonly known as “bird flu,” the virus has been detected in Barron and Racine counties among captive poultry flocks. Due to the outbreaks all poultry shows, exhibits and swap meets have been suspended statewide through May 31. Similar measures have been taken in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and North Carolina.
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has been following reports of infection closely. On April 9, the department announced that an outbreak of avian influenza was detected among a Barron County commercial poultry flock. Both the DATCP and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are organizing a response with animal health officials, according to DATCP. Birds at the property will be “depopulated” to prevent any further spread of the disease.
A day prior, the DATCP sent out a notification about an outbreak in a Racine County poultry flock. Samples were tested by the Wisconsin Diagnostic Laboratory, and confirmed by the National Veterinary Services Laboratories. Birds on the Racine property were also depopulated. In total, outbreaks of HPAI have been detected in four counties, the others being Jefferson and Rock. Additionally, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced HPAI was detected among wild bird populations in Dane, Columbia, Grant, Polk and Milwaukee counties.
Poultry owners are encouraged to use strong biosecurity measures, and to take their birds indoors when possible. The DATCP also encourages poultry owners to register their premises, something required of all livestock owners statewide. Symptoms of HPAI in birds can include sudden death without clinical signs; lack of energy or appetite, decrease in egg production or soft and misshapen eggs, purple discoloration of wattles, comb and legs, difficulty breathing, runny nose or coughing and sneezing, stumbling or falling down and diarrhea. The birds carry the virus in their intestines, and shed it through bodily fluids including saliva, nasal secretions and feces.
Through contact with these fluids, other birds and humans can become infected, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. However, the department notes that avian influenza “has not mutated to a point where it could be easily spread from person-to-person. It’s difficult to predict if — or when — that might happen, or if it will result in an influenza pandemic. People who have gotten sick with avian influenza have been in direct contact with infected birds.” As long as poultry is fully cooked and preparation of the food is sanitary, poultry is safe to eat.
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