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US bird flu case puts chicken, turkey farms on high alert – Medicine Hat News

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By David Pitt, The Associated Press on February 15, 2022.

FILE – A flock of young turkeys stand in a barn at the Moline family turkey farm after the Mason, Iowa farm was restocked on Aug. 10, 2015. Farms that raise turkeys and chickens for meat and eggs are on high alert, fearing a repeat of a widespread bird flu outbreak in 2015 that killed 50 million birds across 15 states and cost the federal government nearly $1 billion. The new fear is driven by the discovery announced Feb. 9, 2022, of the virus infecting a commercial turkey flock in Indiana. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Farms that raise turkeys and chickens for meat and eggs are on high alert and taking steps to increase biosecurity, fearing a repeat of a widespread bird flu outbreak in 2015 that killed 50 million birds across 15 states and cost the federal government nearly $1 billion.

The new fear is driven by the discovery announced Feb. 9 of the virus infecting a commercial turkey flock in Indiana. The 29,000 turkeys in the flock were killed to prevent the spread of the virus.

Indiana officials said Tuesday a second flock of 26,473 turkeys near the first infected farm is suspected to have the same virus. Testing is underway to confirm. The second location already is within a quarantine zone established for the first farm.

The USDA also has confirmed the presence of bird flu in a flock of commercial broiler chickens in Fulton County, Kentucky, and are awaiting results of a potential second case about 124 miles northeast in Webster County, Ketucky. A backyard flock of mixed species birds in northern Virginia also is positive for the virus. State officials quarantined areas and the birds at the new positively identified sites will be killed and removed.

The poultry industry and government officials say they have plans to more quickly stop the spread that were learned from 2015, but they’re urging caution since the virus strain is potentially deadly to commercial poultry. Egg, turkey and chicken prices could rise and availability could drop if birds at enough farms were to be infected.

“It’s definitely considered a period of high risk now that we have a confirmed case of highly pathogenic avian influenza in the commercial poultry industry,” said Dr. Denise Heard, a poultry veterinarian and vice president of research for the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association. “I feel positive that we can tackle this situation better and I have my fingers crossed that this will be an isolated case, however, I would hope for the best and be prepared for the worst.”

Health officials say no human cases of avian influenza viruses have been detected in the U.S. and the disease doesn’t present an immediate public health concern. The virus can spread from infected birds to people but such infections are rare and haven’t led to sustained outbreaks among humans.

The 2015 outbreak led producers to kill 33 million egg-laying hens in Iowa, the nation’s leading egg producer, and 9 million birds in Minnesota, the nation’s leading turkey producer, with smaller outbreaks in Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The disease caused egg and turkey prices across the country to soar for months, with the cost of eggs up 61% at one point and prices for boneless, skinless turkey breasts rising 75% between May and July 2015.

The outbreaks were deemed the most expensive animal health disaster in U.S. history, costing the government nearly $1 billion for removal and disposal of infected birds and government indemnity payments to producers for the lost birds.

The strain now circulating is H5N1 and is related to the 2015 virus. It has been circulating for months in Europe and Asia and was found in wild birds in Canada a few weeks ago and in a commercial flock in Canada a week before the U.S. case was identified.

Migratory wild birds often carry strains of avian influenza and they’re often low pathogenic, which means they don’t kill the birds. Sometimes those strains can get into domestic flocks and mutate into more deadly viruses. The H5N1 now spreading from wild birds is already highly pathogenic, which means it is deadly from the start, said Dr. Yuko Sato, a veterinarian and assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine at Iowa State University.

U.S. surveillance efforts have identified the virus in wild birds in recent weeks in New Hampshire, Delaware, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and South Carolina, making it apparent that it is in the environment broadly.

The virus spreads easily from wild bird droppings and can be carried into commercial flocks on the feet of workers or on equipment, which is why high-level biosecurity protocol has been activated across the country in commercial operations. They’ve enacted new safeguards to prevent deadly bird flu infections, often referred to as HPAI, and isolate them when they occur.

“With the increased preparatory efforts USDA and its partners have put into place since the 2015 HPAI outbreak, we are fully prepared to handle this detection,” said Lyndsay Cole, a spokeswoman for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service at USDA, which deals with outbreaks on U.S.

Federal and state officials are working with the poultry industry and have initiated steps such as an immediate quarantine that restricts movement of poultry and equipment used to move birds in and out of specified perimeters around an infected barn – usually around 6 miles (10 kilometers) initially – and eradication of the virus by killing and removing birds at the infection site. Testing occurs in the quarantine area of both wild and domestic birds. Disinfection is done to kill the virus at the affected farm and testing is used to confirm it’s free of the virus.

Producers who want to ensure eligibility for government indemnity payments in case of disaster must have a biosecurity protocol on hand that is updated regularly. To help with that, the USDA has developed a 14-point biosecurity plan for producers, which is audited yearly and reviewed every two years by state agriculture agencies, Sato said.

In Iowa, a state with 49 million chickens, egg farmers are working with state and federal authorities to keep the disease out of their flocks, said Kevin Stiles, executive director of the Iowa Poultry Association and the Iowa Egg Council.

“IPA is maintaining open communications specifically related to biosecurity best practices and is offering surveillance testing. We are confident in our producers preparedness and ability to manage their flocks,” he said.

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Wildlife rescue on Vancouver Island to limit visitors as avian flu continues to spread in B.C. – CBC.ca

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A wildlife rescue in the Comox Valley, on Vancouver Island, is closing its visitor centre starting Monday due to the spread of avian flu in B.C.

The Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS) Wildlife Rescue Centre, in Merville, B.C., announced it would be limiting visitors due to the risk that the disease poses to its captive birds, which include owls, eagles, and albino crows.

The decision comes after a small poultry flock in the Comox Valley tested positive for the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus last week, the first such case on Vancouver Island.

It is part of a rapidly-spreading outbreak of the flu throughout North America, with eight cases recorded in B.C. since April 13.

The concern is that a visitor could inadvertently bring the virus to the MARS centre on their vehicle, shoes or clothing.

“All of the species that we have in permanent captivity here … they are especially susceptible to the avian flu,” said Gylaine Andersen, manager of wildlife rehabilitation at MARS. “They are more likely to get severe symptoms, and actually die from the flu, than other types of animals.”

“It was a really difficult decision to close the visitor centre because we need the visitor centre to support the wildlife rehab program. But we just had to do it for the safety of our resident birds.”

The centre hosts two bald eagles and multiple owls that were previously rescued, as well as a red-tailed hawk. MARS also has two albino crows in residence named Nimpkish and Kokish.

Nimpkish and Kokish, two albino crows, are seen here at the MARS Wildlife Rescue. They are particularly susceptible to avian flu, according to Gylaine Andersen. (MARS Wildlife Rescue)

Andersen said the temporary closure comes at the busiest time of year for the centre. It might struggle to weather the loss of income without public donations, she said.

“At this time of year, we’re getting lots of little baby birds and baby mammals at the hospital,” she told CBC News. “Over at the visitor centre, this is when we would have the most visitation from the public.”

The MARS wildlife hospital remains open, according to the rescue’s website, but Andersen said it would be “an expensive time of year” without funds for PPE and other medical equipment.

Andersen asked poultry owners to be extra vigilant as avian flu continues to spread in the province, and also reiterated a call to take down bird feeders to stop the spread among wild birds.

Avian flu cases have been confirmed in several other provinces, but no infections have been detected in humans.

Officials say the illness is not considered a significant concern for healthy people who are not in regular contact with infected birds.

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Mental Health Issues Demand Resolution

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Should those who hold public office show that they are of sound mind and body before taking office and during the years they serve? Are those bureaucrats who truly run our government ever tested or investigated for various mental health issues that could surely affect their performance as public employees?

Imagine what the mental state of public servants is like these days? Besides the Pandemics’ influence upon us all, these men and women are responsible for public service to their communities and nation. Man public employees are under vigorous scrutiny for their honesty and performance as employees, but what about their mental health challenges? Various municipal, State and Federal authorities make attempts to pinpoint an employee in need, someone needing assistance and direction in their professional and personal lives, but it is difficult to do. Privacy and union issues often stand in between the person in need and those who would assist them. Furthermore, many employees refuse to seek assistance, for reasons of professional survival. Say an employee has an important job where many decisions are made influencing the community at large(ie Police). That person needs assistance for some mental health issues but fears either losing their jobs or being declared problematic employees, slowing promotions or professional advancement. They clam up, interiorizing their pain, fear or distress.

Most public institutions will honestly admit they do not invest enough into mental health services for their fellow employees.

Our elected officials have much to hide away from their future or present-day electors. What if they have a skeleton in their closet? A colourful personal history, a criminal record, possible mental health or physical health issue. Issues that are allowed to be hidden from the transparency portfolio. If asked, tell the truth(as they see it), otherwise hide what can be hidden. Politicians performing their service to the community, are placed under a microscope by the electorate and media alike. This must be stressful to them and their families too. Are elected officials ever evaluated for mental health status ever, before being elected and during their service?

Do you think anyone with a criminal record or under investigation should be removed or barred from holding office or in a position of public trust? Is the trust of the electorate easily given? A public official or employee could mishandle a portfolio, or commit a crime while in public service. How often have you seen such an individual stand before the media’s camera, proclaiming their innocence or sorrow of their actions?

We have heard many public officials call for hugely needed investments in the treatment of mental health issues, yet these investments are either moving at a snail’s pace or not at all. Our military and police have been calling for assistance regarding their need for mental health programs for two decades with little happening. The government’s response is usually words, words, and more words with little accountable assistance given. Our government has enough revenue to invest in weapons for the police and military, building structures and community centers, highways and new computers, but when asked to invest in people, their employees and the electorate, it’s either too costly or they have not the funds.

The Police and Military: Have an immediate need for trained mental health professionals, therapists and therapy-recoup centers. If the government can send them into harm’s way, they are responsible to maintain their mental health.

Government Agencies: Due to privacy issues, the government should make allotments to their employees available to find and go to therapy. A healthy employee is a trusted effective one. The government should source mental health professionals for those who serve them. Furthermore, Governments and their agencies are responsible to encourage, initiate and plan for the training of these professionals. A well-paid professional will make their placement a long-term investment. If our public employees can rely upon their employer to care for them, we can rely upon our public sector.

An established long-term mental health program needs to be established. This can be all-inclusive to the entire community. For example, gun owners, and drivers of vehicles should be required to invest their time in an interview and possible retraining every five years. Should a mental health issue be recognized, it can be dealt with appropriately and calmly. Bad habits, addictions, attitudes and illnesses developed over time can be recognized and something is done about them promptly and privately.

We have forgotten that much that we receive from and within our society is a privilege, something that should be earnt, and not awarded. Our mental health changes over time, and so too our responsibility to our communities, family and society. Is the public sector becoming our parents, our caregivers? In many ways, it is, and so our overall health, and that of our minds may be calling for community maintenance.

Steven Kaszab
Bradford, Ontario
skaszab@yahoo.ca

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BC bird flu: Vancouver Island farmers on alert | CTV News – CTV News VI

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The fears of many chicken farmers on Vancouver Island have been realized. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirmed that a case of the avian flu that’s been spreading across Canada has been found in a small flock in the Comox Valley on Wednesday.

Jeremy Vigini considers his birds pets, but they do provide limited income on his Black Creek, B.C., hobby farm, Broken Head Farms.

He’s only been at it for a few months but had heard the bird flu was headed towards the island.

“We first started hearing there was a problem last month,” he said, noting that he’d been keeping an eye on biosecurity and preventative measures.

Vigini and other poultry operations of all sizes are now under tighter restrictions after a positive case of the avian flu was confirmed on the Mid-Island.

“All we got was a post saying it’s in the Comox Valley now, and so our minds went to, ‘How do we secure our birds, our pets, all this stuff?'” he said.

Vigini’s now put up a new gate and increased fencing and netting to try to keep wild birds out.

WILDLIFE WORKERS

Staff and volunteers at the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Centre (MARS) in Merville are increasing their protocols.

“[It’s] extremely contagious as far as we are aware, so at this point it can spread to any species of bird. Not necessarily all birds will show symptoms,” said Gylaine Andersen, manager of wildlife rehabilitation at MARS.

Staff are now taking a second look at the condition of their current patients.

“It’s kind of hard because a lot of these symptoms we’re seeing in animals anyway, and now we have to think, ‘OK maybe this is the flu instead of whatever else they would normally be,'” said Andersen.

The facility’s asking the general public to help out by encouraging birds to socially distance.

“For gathering of birds at bird feeders and bird baths, we are asking that people take those down,” said Andersen.

MARS is worried that if the avian flu is left unchecked, it could spread to wild birds, like eagles and geese.

As of Wednesday, seven properties across B.C. had confirmed cases of the avian flu. 

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