As Avian Flu Appears in Midwest, Delaware Using Enhanced Monitor - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

As Avian Flu Appears in Midwest, Delaware Using Enhanced Monitoring

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DOVER, Del. (WBOC) - A potential poultry problem - a contagious and deadly disease for birds poses a threat to Delmarva.

This month cases of avian flu have popped up in turkey flocks in the Midwest from Missouri and Arkansas to Minnesota. Late last year the disease was found on the West Coast. Now there are concerns the East Coast might be hit next.

The Delaware Department of Agriculture monitors for avian flu 365 days a year whether there's a potential issue or not.

Flocks are checked before going to market. Flocks are checked if too many birds get sick at one time.

But since late December, there has been enhanced monitoring going on in Delaware.

Poultry is a multi-billion dollar industry for this region. So, Delaware's state veterinarian, Dr. Heather Hirst, says the threat of avian flu is taken seriously.

"We're concerned now that it has been identified in Missouri and Arkansas, because they are large poultry states with millions of birds," she said. "So, we are very concerned this may spread."

Exactly how it got from the West Coast to the Midwest is unclear. Wild birds, like ducks, can carry the disease without showing outward signs of sickness.

But there's no smoking gun to indicate that's how poultry is being infected - like diseased wild birds near the flocks - according to Rob Hossler, with Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife.

"We don't have that linkage yet," Hossler said. "That's the missing link to show that wild birds are bringing it to, um, the poultry industry."

Even so, the division is carefully monitoring Delaware's wild bird population. Not knowing how the disease is moving makes being vigilant extra important.

Dr. Hirst says enhanced monitoring means Delaware encourages samples be submitted to the state for any sick bird. It also includes extra outreach to the industry.

"If this virus does show up in Delaware, we will be well prepared to respond and contain the virus."

Avian flu can be scary stuff. The World Health Organization says more than 400 people have died from it worldwide - mainly in Asia - since 2003. However, experts say there have been no documented cases in humans of the avian flu strain currently affecting the American poultry industry.

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