Highly contagious bird flu detected at Alabama chicken farm
Agriculture officials say the presence of highly pathogenic avian flu in a flock of chickens has resulted in the death of nearly 48,000 birds at a north Alabama farm. The Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries said Friday that a Marshall County commercial farm was quarantined after samples came back positive for HPAI. Al.com reports state officials said the infected flock reinforces the need to continue following strict biosecurity measures. The Marshall County detection comes a week after the same virus showed in an upland gamebird farm in Chilton County. All poultry there -- nearly 300,000 — will be killed. It wasn't immediately clear if the cases at both farms were connected.
HPAI is highly contagious to birds but considered low risk to humans and the virus is not considered a threat to food safety, the department said.
"It is critical for commercial and backyard poultry operations to remain alert and closely monitor the health of their poultry," Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Rick Pate and State Veterinarian Tony Frazier said in a joint statement. "The HPAI infected flock in Marshall County reinforces the need to continue following strict biosecurity measures, including keeping birds enclosed without access to wild birds or other domestic flocks."
All poultry within a 6.2-mile (10-kilometer) radius of the farm are being tested and monitored, al.com reported. However, no other flocks have experienced an uptick in deaths, the news site reports.
HPAI symptoms in birds include a sudden increase in bird deaths in the flock; watery and green diarrhea; lack of energy and poor appetite and a drop in egg production or soft or thin-shelled, misshaped eggs.
The detection of the virus in Marshall County comes a week after HPAI was confirmed in an upland gamebird farm in Chilton County. All poultry there — nearly 296,500 birds — were affected and all will be killed, the department said.
It was not immediately clear if the cases at both farms were connected.
The department urged the commercial poultry industry and backyard flock owners to increase biosecurity measures to protect their operations from HPAI by, among other things, cleaning vehicles and equipment; changing clothes upon contact with birds and limiting unnecessary visitors.
Sick or dead wild birds should be reported to the Alabama Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, while sick or dead domestic birds and poultry should be reported to the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries' Poultry Unit.