Ohio poultry industry officials and veterinarians are urging prevention to keep a bird-flu strain out of the state that has been identified in other parts of the country.
Migratory birds appear to have helped the spread of the H5N2 virus that the U.S. Department of Agriculture identified last year on the West Coast, The Columbus Dispatch reports (http://bit.ly/1MUea0x ).
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says this strain of avian flu has not been linked to any human illness and is a low risk for infecting humans, but is deadly to birds.
The Ohio poultry industry, including chicken eggs and meat plus turkeys, is valued at $1 billion. And Mohamed El-Gazzar, assistant professor and poultry extension veterinarian at Ohio State University, said the strain could reach Ohio at any time.
The flu spread through Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah and Idaho then moved from wild birds to commercial flocks of turkeys in Arkansas, California, Minnesota, Missouri and South Dakota and to chickens or mixed poultry in Idaho, Kansas, Oregon and Washington, the newspaper reports.
"This particular strain is quite concerning," said Jim Chakeres, executive vice president of the Ohio Poultry Association. "In turkey flocks that have experienced this, there is a high death loss."
The Ohio Department of Agriculture recommends anyone with chickens to avoid contact with wild birds and change clothes and footwear before handling their birds. Contact between wild birds and contained flocks should be avoided.
Birds taken to industry shows and events such as state fairs should be quarantined for 21 days after returning home, said Tony Forshey, Ohio's state veterinarian. The state also has detailed emergency plans in case bird flu arrives.
Deaths among infected flocks can be as high as 90 percent and can sweep through a flock before the birds exhibit symptoms, El-Gazzar said.
Tim Barman, head veterinarian for Cooper Farms in Fort Recovery, said the economic impact of an outbreak would be severe. The farm raises 5 million turkeys each year.
He said economic problems would result not only from bird deaths, but also because of mandatory quarantines and the time needed to recover after an outbreak.
State officials say routine testing of flocks for influenza will continue, and people can report sick or dead birds through a state Department of Agriculture hotline.