NC Poultry Industry Prepares For Bird Flu

Jun 11, 2015

Credit Katie Brady / Wikimedia Commons

State agriculture officials are ramping up efforts to protect North Carolina's poultry industry against the avian flu.

The bird flu, called H5N2, is not a danger to humans, but has devastated poultry flocks in 21 states. Since its first appearance in December 2014 in British Columbia, the virus has killed nearly 50 million birds. The disease is spread by wild water fowl as they migrate across the continent. 

North Carolina is still free of the bird flu, but Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said that may change as wild birds begin their migration south in the fall.

"We do have a lot of water fowl that do visit North Carolina in that flyway, so that puts North Carolina at [greater] risk than maybe some other states," Troxler said.

Once an area is infected, the virus spreads easily from bird to bird. People can also carry the virus on their clothing. State Veterinarian Doug Meckes said that is why the state will ban all public poultry sales and shows.

"To bring folks together with birds does not seem in the best interest of our industry nor in the best interest of the state at this time," Meckes said.

North Carolina poultry is an $18 billion industry and brings in more money than any other agricultural product in the state.

"We do not want avian influenza in North Carolina," Troxler said. "The potential threat to the North Carolina poultry industry is enormous."

The ban means there will be no poultry at this year's State Fair. The ban begins in mid-August and will last until January.