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Backyard flock in Durham tests positive for avian flu as US cases top 50M birds

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A strain of the highly contagious avian flu has been found in Wake, Union and, most recently, Durham County this fall as case numbers break records across the U.S.

On Wednesday, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced that a backyard flock in Durham County had tested positive for High Path Avian Influenza (HPAI), commonly called bird flu.

The next day, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released data that showed this year’s avian flu outbreak is the deadliest year yet. More than 50.54 million birds have been wiped out by the disease.

The flock in Durham is one of several in the Triangle and surrounding counties to show signs of bird flu this year. Avian flu has been found in nine poultry farms in Johnston and Wayne counties.

Avian flu is highly contagious in birds and can be deadly to chickens, ducks, turkeys and other domestic fowl.

“The threat of high path avian influenza is nationwide and likely will remain through the fall and winter,” State Veterinarian Mike Martin said. “Commercial operations and backyard flock owners should continue to follow strict biosecurity measures including keeping birds enclosed without access to wild birds or other domestic flocks when possible.”

However, this flu is “considered low-risk to people” according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus is also not a danger to the food supply, according to a statement from the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

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Although the appearance of avian flu in Durham County is concerning, Martin said it is not shocking.

“We have had evidence that the HPAI virus has remained in our resident wild bird population and in migratory waterfowl, so reports of backyard positive flocks are unfortunate, but not surprising,” he said.

Bird owners are asked to pay extra attention to their flocks and report any signs of avian flu to the NC Department of Agriculture. and Consumer Services at 919-707-3250, or the N.C. Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System at 919-733-3986..

The warning signs

According to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, these are the warning signs of avian flu:

  • Reduced energy, decreased appetite, and/or decreased activity
  • Lower egg production and/or soft-shelled or misshapen eggs
  • Swelling of the head, eyelids, comb and wattles
  • Purple discoloration of the wattles, comb and legs
  • Difficulty breathing, runny nares (nose), and/or sneezing
  • Twisting of the head and neck, stumbling, falling down, tremors and/or circling
  • Greenish diarrhea

If you suspect your birds are sick or dying, state officials recommend calling

  • Your local veterinarian
  • NC State Veterinary Office at 919-707-3250
  • Your local branch of the NC Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System. In Raleigh the number is 919-733-3986.
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