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MS State Veterinarian Puts Poultry Growers on High Alert for Bird Flu Prevention
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Pens of Chickens
Matt Moyer

This spring, the Bird Flu killed more than 48 million chickens and turkeys in some 20 states according to Dr. Jim Watson. The State Veterinarian for Mississippi's Board of Animal Health says it's the worst outbreak in the nation's history. It impacted jobs and led to a 10 percent increase in egg prices nationwide. Watson says the Bird Flu doesn't affect humans. But it's highly contagious among poultry. The virus is largely transmitted by migratory ducks and geese.

"They harbor the disease. It doesn't affect them, but it lives in their intestinal tract and so when they land in feeding areas, that virus is shed," said Watson.

Meaning, it's in their feces. In hot weather the virus can can survive up to one day. When it's cold and damp, it can live up to several weeks. The fowl fly along the Mississippi River from the north to the south for warmer weather and their droppings can contain the virus. There's no cure and no vaccine. The Mississippi State University Cooperative Extension Service is working with Watson to educate farmers and poultry producers, before cooler weather hits. Any place birds go is a threat. 

"The most common is that someone is walking around a pond or something like that and just goes straight from there to where chickens are," said Watson.

Farmers are told to put on clean clothes and clean their boots with warm soapy water, plus bleach and water before going near poultry. Mark Leggett with the Mississippi Poultry Association says it's a 12 billion dollar industry and growers are taking the threat seriously. 

"They are very cautious about who comes on the farm. They are also more concerned about any sharing of equipment," said Leggett.

Jim Watson says every flock of chickens is tested before they are shipped for processing.