USDA issues alert for bird flu strain not seen in 5 years

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued an alert after finding a highly pathogenic strain of avian flu infecting birds in North and South Carolina.

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In a statement, the USDA said all three birds were found to be infected with H5N1 HPAI, which is highly contagious among birds and has not been seen in the U.S. since 2016.

While multiple cases of avian flu had been found in Canada and Europe in the last two months, the three cases cited by the USDA are the first in the wild in the United States in five years, WJW reported.

The H5N1 type is at low risk of spreading to people, but is dangerous for animals, Reuters reported. The same strain caused problems for the U.S. turkey industry in 2015, killing more than 50 million birds, WJW reported.

Of the three current cases identified by the USDA, one was a northern shoveler in Hyde County, North Carolina. The other two were in Colleton County, South Carolina. One was an American wigeon, and the other a blue-winged teal.

Wild birds can transmit the disease to each other through direct contact, as well as through their feathers or feces, Reuters reported.

The USDA is asking all farmers involved with poultry to review their biosecurity plans and enhance their practices to assure the health of their animals.

Carol Cardona, a professor of avian health at the University of Minnesota, told Reuters the outbreak creates a lot of work for farmers. “Poultry producers are going to be busy this spring. They have to check the doors and windows every day, twice a day, 10 times a day.”