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More wild birds in Southeast with avian influenza

Laboratory tests confirmed two additional cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza in wild birds in the coastal Southeast, said the USDA on Tuesday. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said it anticipated still more findings “as our robust wild bird sampling program continues into the spring.”

Poultry owners should review and enhance their safeguards against the viral disease, said APHIS. “High path” bird flu can spread rapidly and wipe out a flock of birds. Nearly 50 million birds, mostly laying hens and turkeys, died in an epidemic of avian influenza in 2014 and 2015.

The new infections were found in a wild bird in Colleton County, South Carolina, and in a wild bird in Hyde County, North Carolina, about 400 miles away. Hyde County is 175 miles northeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, on the Atlantic Coast. Colleton County, 50 miles west of Charleston, is part of South Carolina’s low country facing the Atlantic Ocean.

Last week, APHIS reported that a wild American wigeon, a duck species, collected by a hunter in Colleton County was infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).

“These findings are not unexpected, as wild birds can be infected with HPAI and show no signs of illness. They can carry the disease to new areas while migrating,” said APHIS.

The leading states for poultry production are Georgia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Alabama, according to USDA data.

Going forward, the USDA said it would report findings of avian influenza in wild birds on a weekly basis, rather than individually announcing them.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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