Official: Arrival of Bird Flu in Maryland Expected This Fall

Maryland's top agricultural official expects the bird flu outbreak that has ravaged poultry flocks across much of the country to arrive in the state this fall. The Daily Times of Salisbury reports that Maryland Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder announced Thursday that officials believe the disease, which is not known to infect humans, will make its way to Maryland soon.

“We have every reason to believe that HPAI will enter Maryland this fall, and we are making every effort to keep it out of our commercial chickenhouses and backyard flocks,” Bartenfelder said in a statement.

“I strongly encourage all flock owners and managers to take this disease as seriously as they have ever taken anything and to practice enhanced bio-security at all times.”

Citing the threat to the state's $1 billion poultry industry, Bartenfelder declared a ban on displaying poultry at all fairs and shows, starting after Aug. 25. The department also issued a quarantine order Wednesday mandating all hatching eggs and poultry coming into the state to be tested within 10 days unless they have originated from a certified clean facility. This strain of avian flu is more likely to sicken and kill birds that contract it than a strain found at two Delaware farms and one near Pocomoke City in 2004.

“This one is unprecedented because of the scope of it and the virulence of the virus,” said Mike Radebaugh, the state of Maryland's veterinarian. “These birds, 90 percent are dying within 5 days. Definitely, the economic impact of this is going to reverberate around the country for years.”

One reason for hope in Delmarva is that broilers, the area's dominant type of chicken production, have been relatively unscathed in areas affected by the flu, Radebaugh said. But since it only takes one gram of fecal material from an infected duck to affect 1 million birds, he stressed that it will be important for farmers, contractors and visitors to take every available precaution to keep birds healthy.

Source: NBC Washington