The avian bird flu is spreading across the country, and officials in North Carolina are doing what they can to protect the state's birds before the flu becomes a serious threat. The disease could have devastating effects on North Carolina's $18 billion poultry industry if infected waterfowl enter the state, but State Veterinarian Doug Meckes said that won't be a threat until possibly this fall.
"At this point, the migratory fowls do continue to harbor the virus, but most of them are in Canada and not a threat," Meckes said.
However, Meckes said North Carolina is in the Atlantic flyway and parts of the Mississippi flyway, which means it is vulnerable to waterfowl flying in from Canada once they migrate south this fall.
Meckes said the U.S. Department of Agriculture has spent millions of dollars to provide indemnity and relief to parts of the Midwest and Northwest that have already been hit hard by the virus.
Here is how the bird flu spreads to chickens in people's backyards:
1) The infected waterfowl fly down from Canada.
2) They land in a pond that may be in somebody's backyard. Meckes said many people who have chickens also have ponds in their yards.
3) The migratory waterfowl and the backyard chickens interact and the infectious disease spreads.
Meckes said people with backyard poultry should try to prevent their chickens from interacting with any wild birds and waterfowl. For those already struggling with the disease, the impact goes beyond just commercial and backyard poultry.
"Think about the banking industry, the transportation industry and even the shortage of products. We have seen a significant decrease in the number of eggs available so the baking industry has been profoundly affected," Meckes said.
"The agriculture industry is inextricably linked to the economic well-being of our nation, and this potentially has significant impacts for us all."
Meckes said he does not want to see the livelihood of families and businesses connected to the poultry industry harmed by this disease. He said a part of the state's plan of action, if it comes to it, is to go into farms and kill infected chickens to prevent the bird flu from spreading.