Barron County officials address avian influenza concerns - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Barron County officials address avian influenza concerns


Barron County (WQOW) - Health and agriculture officials met in Barron County on Wednesday to address the avian influenza virus that is ruffling feathers across the nation.

Beth Moen returned to her family's dairy farm, and has been adding poultry to the mix. Her passion started at the fair as a 5-year-old, and she is now one of the leaders of Barron County's Poultry Show.

"Because of the bird flu, we're probably not going to be having a show at the fair this year," Beth said.

Her dairy farm is currently under quarantine. Poultry and poultry products cannot leave the farm, because bird flu has been found just down the road.

Experts believe the disease is spread by wild waterfowl. The Moen family is an easy target with water access along the fowl flyway.

"We can't do much to prevent our ducks from being out on our property," Beth's mother Carol Moen said. "That's just their natural place to be."

Those birds don't just visit, but flock to the farm.

"One fall, our son climbed up the silo with his digital camera, and took a picture that included over 1,000 birds," Carol said.

However, this farm with just a couple dozen poultry has concerns that goes beyond birds.

"We do raise a lot of extra corn to sell," Carol said. "Jennie-O is one of the places we do like to sell it, but if Jennie-O can't raise turkeys, they don't need our corn. They don't need a lot of things in the county, such as the bedding, the fuel to keep them warm, the electricity. It's just a significant impact on the whole county."

Three of Wisconsin's seven avian influenza cases are in Barron County. While that's been widely broadcast, experts say so have rumors.

Health and agricultural officials say all poultry products are safe to eat, and there are no known avian influenza cases in humans.

Those officials hope the virus does not mutate and affect humans like 2009's infamous swine flu outbreak.

"It is a fragile virus," Registered Nurse Health Officer Kelli Engen said. "Whether it mutates or not depends on conditions in the host, which right now, is only in poultry."

Scientists believe warmer weather will kill the virus.

"We can't really make projections as to how soon this disease will run its course," Barron County Agriculture Extension Agent Tim Jergenson said. "We just know that it will eventually go away."

With no effective vaccine, the fear is that this fall's migratory season has a potential to spread the virus again.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture says to protect yourself by washing hands before and after handling birds. If you find a sick or dead bird, don't touch it. Report domestic birds to DATCP at 1-800-572-8981, and wild birds to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources at 1-800-433-1610.

Signs of bird flu include lack of energy or appetite, decreased egg production and/or soft-shelled or misshapen eggs; swelling of the heads, eyelids, comb, wattles and hocks; purple discoloration of the wattles, combs and legs; runny nose, coughing, sneezing; stumbling or falling down; diarrhea; sudden death without any clinical signs.

The DATCP lists six ways to protect your birds.

1. Keep your distance. Restrict access to your property and keep your birds away from other birds.

2. Keep it clean. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after working with your birds. Clean and disinfect equipment.

3. Don't haul disease home. Buy birds from reputable sources and keep new birds separated for at least 30 days.

4. Don't borrow disease. Do not share equipment or supplies with neighbors or other bird owners. If you must borrow, disinfect it first.

5. Know the warning signs. Early detection can help prevent the spread of the disease. Check your birds frequently. If you find a sick or dead bird, don't touch it.

6. Report sick birds. If your birds are sick or dying, call your veterinarian or notify DATCP at 1-800-572-8981.

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