Avian Flu concerns for the Eastern Shore

Avian Influenza is a crisis that has taken over the Midwest and as the disease continues to progress, farmers all over the country are protecting their farms, preparing for the worst. But preventative measures should go way beyond livestock since the disease affects humans too.

According to USA Today, Associate Professor of Avian Medicine and Pathology at the University of Pennsylvania, Sherrill Davison says this current H5N2 crisis may be the most significant since an outbreak centered in Pennsylvania in 1983-84. That epidemic left more than 17 million birds dead and cost taxpayers as well as the poultry industry $60 million.

Lee Richardson owns a chicken farm in Willards and he’s keeping a close eye on the Avian flu outbreak in the Midwest. But as far as his farm goes, he say’s there isn’t much to worry about, yet.

Richardson tells 47 ABC, “It’s not a concern of mine right now but it’s a certain strain that can be. But I don’t think this is that kind of strain so hopefully we’re ok with that. If it gets here it’s gonna be pretty bad we wont be able to stop it in this area I don’t think.”

Avian influenza, or bird flu, is a deadly disease that can affect humans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website states it’s rare but cases of human infection have been reported. The World Health Organization claims the majority of human cases are a result of direct contact with an infected bird and not from eating under-cooked food.

There are two types of bird flu including low pathogenic and high pathogenic. The symptoms are similar to regular flu and pneumonia but high pathogenic avian flu is much more serious and can result in respiratory failure. There is anti-viral medication available which has shown to be effective in preventing infection. If you own a farm, don’t wear the same clothes and shoes in the chicken houses that you wear outside.

Richardson tells 47 ABC, “That prevents us from tracking in the disease and we also have footbaths when needed and stuff like that to kill the disease if its on our feet or whatever.”

Even though the outbreak, which is carried by migratory geese, is in the Midwest right now, most chicken farmers here on the Eastern Shore are aware of safety protocols.

Federal officials say they’re taking steps to create a human vaccine for the bird flu virus though they still consider the danger to be low. Doctor Alicia Fry, an influenza expert with the CDC says they’re optimistic there won’t be any human cases of the H5N2 strain because most human infections with other bird flu viruses have required close prolonged contact with infected birds.

According to USA Today, the strain has been spotted along the Pacific, Central and Mississippi River flyways and experts say there’s a threat that the disease will be carried eastward as migratory birds such as wild ducks and geese gather in northern breeding grounds over the summer and expose more birds to the disease.

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