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Virginia keeps an eye out for bird flu



Richmond, Virginia – Following an infection in Texas that affected a farm worker, avian flu is currently receiving national attention. as well as in Virginia. Authorities from the state are keeping an eye on a rise in cases involving wild birds in the eastern region of the state.

They emphasize that there is little chance of transfer to humans. Additionally, the meat and dairy supplies are still safe to eat. However, they are advising caution, particularly for the poultry sector in Virginia.

In particular, the spread of avian influenza can be disastrous for chicken farms.

“From a poultry standpoint, this disease is hugely concerning and crippling to the industry. Really from the bird standpoint there is no cure for it, so it results in depopulation and that’s our attempt to control the disease,” said Mike Persia, Virginia Tech Professor of Animal and Poultry Sciences.

Although there are no commercial flocks listed in Virginia as of yet, state officials are advising homebird owners and poultry farms to exercise caution.

“The virus is severe and does have potential ramifications for the poultry industry, so it’s important for those that work with poultry or have poultry at home to take proper, strict biosecurity measures to protect those flocks,” said Dr. John Tracey, State Wildlife Veterinarian with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.

And what about the chance of a human outbreak that spreads widely? Although slight, the risk is acknowledged by experts.

“I think the fact that this H5N1 virus is in wild bird populations is not optimal, but I think that this is probably a recognition of risks that have existed for a long time from different viruses throughout human history,” said Dr. Patrick Jackson, an infectious disease expert with UVA Health. “So I think it’s good that we have this awareness and we can do this monitoring, but I don’t think that necessarily means that our risk of a human epidemic happening right now is necessarily elevated.”

Three distinct agencies dealing in wildlife, public health, and agriculture in Virginia sent us an advisory regarding the instances involving wild birds in eastern Virginia.

According to Jackson, this is encouraging since it demonstrates how the state is keeping an eye on the issue in a coordinated manner.



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