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Avian flu puts Western Slope on high alert

Locations: News Published

The Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) continues to monitor the expanding reach of the detrimental Highly Pathogenic H5N1 Avian Influenza. For domestic flocks, the disease carries a 90-100% mortality rate. Thus far, cases have been confirmed in Pitkin, Montrose and La Plata counties.

The disease comes from migrating geese, ducks and other fowl that pass it on to domestic populations.

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The first confirmed case in the state was in the Crystal Valley (Pitkin County). According to a press release, a backyard flock was completely wiped out within 48 hours, with the exception of one chicken that was later euthanized.

On April 19, another case was confirmed just over McClure Pass, in Montrose County, at a commercial poultry operation. There, the entire 60,000 bird flock was euthanized to control the spread of the virus. According to a CDA press release, the state veterinarian issued a quarantine order for parts of Montrose and Delta counties to limit the movement of birds in and out of the area.

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Another case was confirmed in La Plata County the next day, April 20, in a backyard flock. The owner reported an increase in sickness and mortality among the mixed species poultry flock to the state veterinarian’s office. Before the test results were even confirmed, and because the birds were experiencing significant illness, the birds were euthanized on April 17.

“While Garfield County does not have any confirmed cases, we are urgently asking people to take immediate measures to protect their flocks,” said Colorado State University Extension County Director Carla Farrand.

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A Garfield County press release stated that poultry owners should take these immediate measures to protect their flocks and prevent further spread: cover coops and runs to keep birds inside, wash hands before entering coops, do not handle other people’s birds, wear dedicated flock clothes and shoes, avoid feed stores and other places with poultry, avoid parks and other places with waterfowl, don’t share equipment, regularly disinfect equipment in contact with poultry, don’t attract wild birds with feeders, feed birds inside coops, clean up feed spills and remove standing water.

Poultry owners are also asked to monitor their flocks and report any suspicious behavior to the state veterinarian’s office at 303-869-9130. An after hours veterinarian will remain on call. Signs to look for include: extreme depression, difficulty breathing, decrease in feed or water intake, swelling or purple discoloration of head, eyelids, comb, wattle and hocks, decrease in egg production and sudden, unexplained death.

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“We do not have commercial meat raising operations in Garfield County, but there are families with 20 or more birds in the CDA programs raising and selling eggs as producers, we also are alerting,” said Farrand.

The general public is asked to not feed wild birds and to contact the nearest Colorado Parks and Wildlife office if they find a dead bird in the environment. Pet birds should remain inside.

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Poultry farmers who are experiencing mental health struggles due to the outbreak can contact Colorado Crisis Services by calling 844-494-8255 or texting TALK to 38255. Farmers and ranchers can get up to six free sessions with an ag-competent provider.

There have not been any HPAI detected cases in humans within the United States. 

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For additional information and resources, visit www.bit.ly/avianinfluenzabeware

Tags: #agriculture #avian influenza #Carla Farrand #chickens #Colorado Parks and Wildlife #Colorado State University #disease #Jane Bachrach #poultry
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