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Avian Influenza detected in Muskegon County facility

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

For the first time this year, a growing avian influenza outbreak has struck a commercial operation in Michigan.

A state Agriculture department spokeswoman says after the highly pathogenic avian influenza was detected, officials euthanized 35,000 birds at the facility in Muskegon County.

According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, to protect other flocks in Michigan, the premises are currently under quarantine as part of efforts to ensure the safety and integrity of the commercial food supply.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is a highly contagious virus that can be spread in various ways from flock to flock, including by wild birds, through contact with infected poultry, by equipment, and on the clothing and shoes of caretakers.

A state poultry industry official is downplaying the potential effect of the Muskegon County facility outbreak on the rest of the industry.

“No impact is anticipated from this isolated case, which represents a very small fraction of the industry,” said Allison Brink, the Executive Director of the Michigan Allied Poultry Industries, in a written statement.

Poultry is roughly a $2 billion industry in Michigan.

Avian influenza has also been detected in a dozen backyard flocks in Michigan since the beginning of the year.

It’s not just Michigan, Avian Influenza is having an effect across the nation.

Bloomberg reports more than 37 million chickens and turkeys have been killed since the current outbreak began. Nearly one in ten egg-laying hens in the U.S. have died, contributing to rising prices for eggs.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the public health risk associated with these avian influenza detections remains low.

“It is safe to eat properly handled and cooked poultry in the United States. Properly handling and cooking poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165˚F kills bacteria and viruses, including bird flu viruses,” the CDC site reports.

In an effort to stem a growing Avian Influenza outbreak in Michigan, the state Agriculture and Rural Development Department is banning poultry and waterfowl shows.

Officials say bringing poultry from different flocks together in a central location creates a significant risk of spreading the virus. That’s why the state agriculture department is banning shows, exhibitions, swap meets, petting zoos at fairs, and game bird/waterfowl fair displays until the state of Michigan goes 30 days without a new outbreak.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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