Deadly strain of avian flu spreading among birds worldwide

The H5N1 strain of avian flu has been detected in 4 of the 6 New England states, and has poultry farmers on high alert

By: Tim Studebaker

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – Southern New England poultry farmers are on high alert as a deadly strain of avian flu spreads among birds around the world.

Doctor Scott Marshall is the Rhode Island State Veterinarian and Deputy Chief of The Division of Agriculture and Forestry.  Marshall says, “This particular strain is one that we’ve been monitoring.  It was existing in wild waterfowl in Europe and Asia.  It seems like it’s been sequentially moving west.”

Marshall tells ABC6 News the highly contagious H5N1 strain has not yet been detected in birds in Rhode Island, but it has been detected in four of the six New England states including Massachusetts, and in birds that typically migrate through Rhode Island.  The disease has a very high mortality rate among birds, almost 100%.  The DEM is working to monitor the situation and respond to any outbreaks.

Marshall says, “Once the virus has been reasonably confirmed, we will depopulate the flocks.  I know that sounds very harsh and draconian, but the reason we’re doing that is to remove the virus from the environment.”

Marshall tells us poultry farmers should keep fowl separated from wild birds as well as other farm flocks, should clean and disinfect living spaces, and should not share equipment with other farmers.

Marshall says, “We want to have as minimum an impact on commerce as possible, where we’re allowing birds that can be safely moved to be moved into commerce.”

The CDC says this flu strain is not an immediate public health concern for humans.  Marshall says birds from infected flocks will not enter the food system, and even so, properly cooking poultry and eggs kills viruses and bacteria.

For more information about avian flu, visit http://www.dem.ri.gov/programs/agriculture/avianflu.php

To report sick or dying domestic (farm) birds, call: 401-222-2781. If you fail to reach someone or if it’s after regular business hours, call: 401-222-3070.

To report sick or dying wild birds, call: 401-789-0281.

© WLNE-TV / ABC6 2022

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