HARTINGTON — The avian flu has been confirmed in wild geese in Cedar County as well as a backyard flock in Merrick County.
That’s the latest information coming from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The two agencies detected cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Cedar, Merrick and Douglas counties.
State officials announced early Tuesday the virus was found in a commercial flock of chickens on a Butler County farm. All 570,000 animals on the farm must now be destroyed and the facility was placed in quarantine.
Northeast Nebraska was hit hard by the bird flu in 2016.
Several Dixon County flocks had to be destroyed at that time. In all more than 4 million chickens had to be destroyed in Nebraska in 2016 because of the virus. Nationwide the toll was over 40 million.
The avian flu is a highly contagious virus that spreads easily among birds through nasal and eye secretions, as well as manure. The virus can be spread in various ways from flock to flock, including by wild birds, through contact with infected poultry, by equipment, and on the clothing and shoes of caretakers. Wild birds can carry the virus without becoming sick, while domesticated birds can become very sick.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk to people getting avian flu infections from birds is low. No human cases of avian influenza viruses have been detected in the United States.
“It comes with migratory birds and so it’s inevitable,” said Dave Camenzind, veterinarian at Laurel Vet Clinic.
He doesn’t deal with poultry directly at his clinic but encourages people who raise birds to follow the state guidelines.
Roger Lange of Hartington has a flock of about 50 laying hens. His flock has not been affected by the disease. He said he’s aware of signs of the avian flu but won’t be making changes to processes at this time.
He also was not alarmed by the presence of avian flu in 2015 mostly due to how his flock is set up.
Lange’s hens are all indoors and up on slatted sides. The small poultry operation is more of a hobby - a responsibility for his children: Jace, 12, and Eliza, 15, who have also shown poultry at the Cedar County Fair over the years.
Nebraska is one of a growing list of states dealing with the avian flu, said NDA Director Steve Wellman.
He said the agency is following proper protocols to address the virus and control the spread, including a 6.2-mile surveillance zone around the Merrick County farm where the domesticated sick birds were detected.
Producers should be aware of avian bird flu symptoms so they can spot a problem in the flock early, said NDA State Veterinarian Roger Dudley.
Symptoms to look for include:
-A decrease in water consumption
- Lack of energy and appetite
- Decreased egg production or soft-shelled, misshapen eggs
- Nasal discharge, coughing, sneezing
Avian flu can also cause sudden death in birds even if they aren’t showing any other symptoms and can survive for weeks in contaminated environments, Dudley said.
He also recommends restricting access to property and poultry; and keeping the environment clean as much as possible including scrubbing boots and shoes with disinfectant after tending to the flock.
It’s important not to share equipment between flocks and prevent contact with wild birds.
Any sick birds should be reported immediately to a veterinarian, the NDA at 402-471-2351 or the USDA at 866-536-7593.