Bird flu spreads in Maryland, killing chickens and vultures

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About 3.2 million confirmed cases of bird flu have been found in chickens on six farms in Maryland and Delaware over the past two months, agriculture officials said Friday, amid a larger issue wide with the virus that is quietly sweeping the country.

Eighty black vultures from Harford County, Maryland were also recently found dead from highly pathogenic avian flu, officials said, near wildlife areas along the Susquehanna River.

Agricultural authorities in Maryland and Delaware said they had reports of chickens on farms infected with bird flu since February. The vultures have been found over the past two weeks.

Thirty-seven million chickens and turkeys have been slaughtered on US farms since February due to the latest outbreak, according to the Department of Agriculture, and around 950 cases of bird flu have been found in wild birds, including at minus 54 bald eagles.

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In Virginia, officials said they detected bird flu in February among a “barnyard flock” of about 90 turkeys, chickens and ducks in Fauquier County. There has been no bird flu detected in DC, officials said.

“The numbers are just staggering in terms of poultry,” said Virginia State Veterinarian Charlie Broaddus.

One of the biggest factors in the spread of bird flu this year, he said, is that it is carried by wild ducks and geese which are infected but “usually unaffected”.

“They are carriers,” Broaddus said, “but the genetic sequence has the potential to make domesticated birds much, much sicker.”

Broaddus said large farms that have hens producing eggs that “end up in the supermarket” tend to be large-scale operations, where the flu can spread quickly. Sometimes, he said, chickens on farms become infected when a farmer or worker “accidentally tracks down goose droppings near a pond” and then brings them into the chicken farm.

“It only takes one to get infected before passing it on to others,” Broaddus said.

Many wild birds don’t always show signs of the virus, but it can be easily transmitted between birds through their droppings or through respiratory secretions, experts said.

Delaware-Maryland HPAI Joint Information Center agricultural officials expressed concern on vultures because they are scavengers and “if they eat a bird infected with avian flu, whether it’s a migratory bird like a Canada goose, other waterfowl or another vulture, they ingest the virus and can then get sick and die.”

“We want to make sure they take action to stop the spread of the virus so they don’t inadvertently carry it to other areas with high populations of wild birds,” said Stacey Hofmann, spokesperson for the center. joint command.

Officials at command centers in Maryland and Virginia say they have response teams to ‘move’ quickly to try to stop the spread of bird flu and are encouraging farmers to be ‘proactive in taking action’. ensure that the vultures do not stop at their farms”.

The high number of black vultures found in the wild in Harford County is particularly alarming to some experts, as it means the birds are spreading the virus by eating carcasses.

“That’s a lot of vultures to catch bird flu at once,” said Dan Rauch, the district wildlife biologist. “Vultures move to where their food sources are, so they move everywhere.

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“They feed and roost together, allowing this highly pathogenic disease to spread quickly,” he said. The birds “then excrete the virus through their saliva, mucus and feces”.

“He gets into the community and stays,” Rauch said. “It’s not good.”

Agriculture experts from the Maryland-Delaware Joint Command Center advised the public to “help limit the spread of disease by not moving bird droppings via their shoes to other wild bird habitats” . People should also change shoes and clean dirty shoes after visiting a wilderness or natural area.

Experts said “spraying the bottom of your shoes with a common household cleaner such as Lysol or a diluted bleach spray will kill the bird flu virus,” according to a statement from the command center. For those with pet birds or poultry at home, authorities recommend “washing your hands, changing clothes and cleaning your shoes after visiting areas frequented by wild birds”.

About Marie A. Gingrich

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