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NC officials prep for possible introduction of bird flu

Posted September 30, 2015

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— As North Carolina prepares for the possible introduction of the highly contagious avian flu, the state is now requiring all poultry owners, regardless of the number of birds they own, to register for a farm ID number.

Jennifer Kendrick, with the N.C. Department of Agriculture, said keeping flocks protected from the pathogenic flu is a top priority across the area.

"We're pretty concerned. We've been very busy preparing in case it hits," she said.

Earlier this year, the state Department of Agriculture banned live bird shows and swap meets, including the state fair in Raleigh. But as the $30 billion industry continues to grow, Kendrick says it is very important for all flock owners to register.

"We need to know where you are, so that if there is a positive we can contact you and just keep you informed of what's going on," she said.

Nearly 2,500 people have already registered, officials said.

According to Kendrick, the biggest surprise is the skyrocketing number of small, urban flocks, particularly in Wake County. But some backyard flock owners do not like the state stepping on their property.

"If it hits a farm, that farm is going to be out of business for several months to get back on its’ feet," she said. "That farmer is going to be out of income, every worker will be out of income. The ripple effect in a small community is going to be huge."

Avian flu is spread by migratory birds and has been confirmed in several states, including Minnesota, Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas. In June, Meckes and Secretary of Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler announced that all bird sales and shows would be suspended from Aug. 15 to Jan. 15 because of the avian flu threat.

Agriculture officials say the food supply is safe because the United States has a strong avian influenza surveillance system and the risk to humans is low. No human infections have been detected.

Anyone who would like to learn more can visit the N.C. Department of Agriculture's website.

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