Officials warn about bird flu potential | News, Sports, Jobs

Officials warn about bird flu potential | News, Sports, Jobs

News Photo by Mike Gonzalez
Seagulls fly in the sky near the Alpena Marina on Monday.

ALPENA — The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) is encouraging all bird owners in the state to protect their flock from a highly pathogenic flu as migration starts.

While the department has not reported any new cases of the highly pathogenic avian influenza, also known as the bird flu, since March, officials say the virus is still within the United States.

Officials said wild birds have the potential to spread the flu to areas as the migration process begins in the fall and precaution and protection is advised to stop any spreading.

Jennifer Holton, director of communications at MDARD, said the flu primarily moves through wild birds, but can spread from farm to farm through multiple ways.

“It’s a matter of biosecurity to make sure you do not come in contact with the avian influenza,” Holton said. “We recommend anyone who owns birds to constantly wash and change their clothes and shoes between coops in case they have come in contact with it.”

She mentioned that people should not worry that the flu will risk public health. In an email from the Department of Agriculture, officials say bird products infected with the avian influenza will not enter the commercial food chain, but they remind everyone to properly handle and cook poultry products.

The email also said domestic birds should stay indoors to prevent contact with wild birds, water and feed should remain secure and safe from wild animals, and that any equipment should be disinfected and not shared among farms.

“While the rate of HPAI detections have decreased in Michigan and the United States, this does not mean the threat posed by the virus has been eliminated,” State Veterinarian Nora Wineland said in the MDARD email. “As the disease continues to circulate in wild birds, their fall migration can cause the virus to spread once again. It is just as important now as it was at the start of the outbreak for bird owners to take every step they can to protect their birds from being exposed to wild birds and their germs.”

While Michigan has not seen any new cases since March, the Department of Agriculture said patterns showed cases early in the year around spring migration. Officials said there is a higher likelihood of new cases as the fall comes around.

The department also asks any bird owners to report any sick or dead domestic or wild birds in the state as they should be investigated for the avian flu.

For domestic birds, the department recommends calling MDARD at 800-292-3939 during the day and 517-373-0440 during after-hours.

For wild birds, contact the Michigan Department of Natural Resources at 517-336-5030.

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