North Carolina’s avian flu outbreak has worsened, and on Tuesday the state veterinarian canceled all poultry shows and the sale of live birds.
“This includes all exhibitions, farm tours, shows, sales, flea markets, auction markets, swaps and meets pertaining to poultry and feathered fowl in North Carolina,” State Veterinarian Mike Martin said in a news release. “These activities are suspended until further notice.”
The suspension does not impact food sales, just live birds.
“Chicken at the grocery story is fine,” said Heather Overton, spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services.
The department also said this highly pathogenic avian influenza virus is considered low risk to people and that there are no reports of this strain infecting a person.
“All properly cooked poultry products are safe to consume,” the department said.
The outbreak has affected commercial and backyard flocks in multiple states, and on Tuesday Martin called it “a serious threat to our poultry industry.” The state added four more potential outbreaks to its tracking dashboard Tuesday, all in Wayne County.
One, impacting as many as 216,000 chickens, would be the largest in North Carolina since the first reports came in last week. Already the state poultry industry has destroyed more than 90,000 turkeys and 280,000 broiler chickens.
State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler updated other state officials, including the governor, during a monthly meeting Tuesday morning, saying the “size and scope of this crisis will determine how well we can handle it.”
“It does appear to be ramping up at this point in time,” he said. “Very fluid situation.”
“Poultry owners across the state need to practice strict biosecurity,” Martin said in his announcement Tuesday. “This includes keeping flocks indoors without access to outside and reporting sick birds to your local veterinarian, the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Veterinary Division, 919-707-3250, or the NC Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System, 919-733-3986. “
According to the state, the warning signs of HPAI include:
- Reduced energy, decreased appetite, and/or decreased activity
- Lower egg production and/or soft-shelled or misshapen eggs
- Swelling of the head, eyelids, comb and watts
- Purple discoloration of the wattles, comb and legs
- Difficulty breathing, runny nares (nose), and/or sneezing
- Twisting of the head and neck, stumbling, falling down, tremors and/or circling
- Greenish diarrhea