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State encourages keeping a close eye on poultry in light of recent avian flu outbreaks

Since March 31, six cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza have been found in commercial turkey growing operations in South Dakota.

State veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven said the avian flu came to the region from migratory waterfowl. Officials suspect the flu gets into barns through people who are bringing it in accidentally or from small birds like sparrows that can also carry it.

Oedekoven said there is good news.

“The good news is we’re not seeing lateral spread from the farms that are affected. Every time we get an infected farm we make sure we quarantine,” he said. “We draw a 10-kilometer (6-mile) circle around the farm on a map and we test every poultry premise in that area. We have not detected the virus in poultry in those control zones in South Dakota. It doesn’t appear that we’re finding spread of the virus outside of those farms, which is encouraging.”

For any poultry operation that has confirmed avian influenza, the farm is quarantined then all of the poultry on the farm are euthanized. Very strict cleaning and disinfecting measures are taken and then environmental sampling is done to be sure the virus has been eliminated from the affected farm.

Oedekoven said while the virus has been found in commercial turkey growing operations in South Dakota, chicken operations in Iowa and Minnesota have also found the disease. The virus has not been found in any commercial pheasant growing operations but Oedekoven said they are being watchful that it might show up in that type of operation.

While he hopes the summer months will mean fewer or no news avian influenza cases, Oedekoven encourages poultry producers to report sick bird or high death loss in their flocks.

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