Maine health officials are preparing for a possible outbreak of the avian flu by educating farmers and the public on steps they can take to prevent it from happening here.

State Veterinarian Michele Walsh said while there is a low risk to humans becoming infected, the avian influenza has decimated chicken and turkey flocks in other states.

Walsh said that the disease has not been detected in Maine or along the eastern seaboard, but state health officials are trying to be proactive before the fall migration of wild waterfowl begins. Wild ducks and geese are the principal carriers of the avian flu.

Commercial producers and backyard poultry owners are being encouraged to report unusual sudden bird deaths in a flock – especially three or more in a week – or birds that exhibit signs of unexplained sickness. Maine farmers should keep their birds away from ponds and wild birds. The state has also been randomly testing birds at county fairs and bird shows.

“When viruses literally fall from the skies, we need to be prepared for it,” Walsh said.

Since December, when the outbreak started in the Pacific Northwest – it has since spread to the Midwest – more than 49 million chickens and turkeys have been euthanized to control the flu’s spread.


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