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Mississippi officials brace for possibilty of carriers of avian flu

Mississippi officials are bracing for the possibility that the state’s poultry industry may be struck by the avian flu later this year, according to a news release from Mississippi State University.

Tom Tabler, poultry specialist with the MSU Extension Service, said no new reports of highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza have occurred in the United States since June 17 because the hot, dry weather where most outbreaks occurred – in Minnesota, Iowa and surrounding states – has killed the virus.

“Unfortunately, that area is a nesting ground right now for the migratory waterfowl that will be flying south this winter,” he said. “While not typically sickened by the virus, these birds could carry highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI, to our commercial and backyard flocks.”

Nobody knows what’s going to happen,” Tabler said in a phone interview.

Tabler said in the interview that no cases of the avian flu have been confirmed in Mississippi. The federal government said this week that it expects to pay our $191 million to the industry to pay for the loss of 48 million chickens and turkeys in the Midwest in the first six months of the year.

MSU veterinary and poultry science professors are working with the Mississippi Board of Animal Health to provide information to consumers, growers and others connected to the poultry industry.

“Commercial growers have company representatives who will guide them throughout the outbreak, but backyard growers may not understand the nature of this highly pathogenic virus,” Tabler said. “It won’t take much for this virus to spread and quickly kill all the chickens on a farm. It will also be easy for it to move from a backyard to a nearby commercial flock before anyone can react.”

“If growers suspect the highly pathogenic virus, they should call the Board of Animal Health at (888) 722-3106 for instructions,” said Jim Watson, state veterinarian.

MBJ staff/Jack Weatherly

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