State Ag Officials Highlight Bird Flu Risks

(Wisconsin) State ag officials are reminding poultry owners about the risks of bird flu. The spring migratory period for wild birds brings an increased risk, so the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection recommends that poultry owners continue using the strongest biosecurity measures to protect their birds.

In Wisconsin last year, 29 domestic flocks in 18 counties were confirmed with bird flu including Jefferson County. DNR Wildlife Veterinarian Lindsey Long says the disease regularly circulates in most waterfowl.

The disease is named by their surface proteins, specifically two: H and N. Long says the proteins that scientists most worry about are the H5’s and the H7’s because they can develop to cause mortality or severe illness in domestic birds.

She says the DNR monitors waterfowl seasonally to see what viruses are circulating. If one is identified, wildlife biologists will look at its genetic makeup to see if it could cause diseases in domestic birds. Long says there are a few specific domestic breeds that are most at risk for avian influenza.

“The domestic birds that we think about most that would be susceptible would be poultry and duck,” says Long. “I haven’t seen indication of other birds but I can’t say definitively that they couldn’t be infected.”

Long says officials with the state’s Agricultural, Trade and Consumer Protection have procedures in place to ensure the effects of the virus are minimized.

She says they work with all registered locations that have domestic birds to make sure that they have bio-security protocols and ways to notify local veterinarians.

Officials say those who do not have a biosecurity plan should work with their flock veterinarian to develop one that addresses the risks for disease introduction. Nationwide, more than 58.5 million birds have died in the largest animal disease outbreak in U.S. history.

-WRN contributed