Chatham farmers should watch for signs of avian flu in chickens, turkeys, and other poultry

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PITTSBORO — The N.C. Dept. of Agriculture & Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) is warning all farmers to prepare for a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), or avian flu, after nine different flocks of turkeys and broilers have tested positive for the virus.

As such, the Chatham County Public Health Department is asking all Chatham County farmers and bird owners to take precautions with their animals to protect them from this highly contagious flu. The virus can be spread in many ways, including coughing, sneezing and feces from bird to bird. It can also be carried to and from flocks on clothing, boots and equipment. Some of the warning signs for avian flu include:

• Reduced energy, decreased appetites, and/or decreased activity

• Lower egg production and/or soft-shelled or misshapen eggs

• Swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, and wattles

• Purple discoloration of the wattles, comb, and legs

• Difficulty breathing, runny nares (nose), and/or sneezing

• Twisting of the head and neck, stumbling, falling down, tremors, and/or circling

• Greenish diarrhea

To ensure that the virus does not spread to humans, avian flu is a reportable disease by law. If your birds are sick or dying, report it right away. This is one of the most important things you can do to keep HPAI from spreading. To make a report, call your local veterinarian or the N.C. State Veterinary Office at 919-707-3250.

This type of HPAI virus is considered a low risk to people according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. There are no cases to date of this strain of HPAI infecting a person. The virus is also not considered a food safety threat and infected birds do not enter the food supply. All properly cooked poultry products are safe to consume.

For local inquiries regarding poultry-based issues, please contact Ag Extension Agent Kristina Britt at the NC Cooperative Extension - Chatham County Center at kristina_britt@ncsu.edu or 919-542-8242. Inquiries can also be made to Jonas Asbill, Poultry Area Specialized Agent, at jonas_asbill@ncsu.edu. For additional resources on HPAI from NC Cooperative Extension, please visit this website.

To learn more about the avian flu and its current status in North Carolina, visit www.ncagr.gov/avianflu. To learn more about the Chatham County Public Health Department, visit www.chathamcountync.gov/publichealth.

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