New York poultry farmers alerted after bird flu strain detected on Long Island

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Monday, February 21, 2022
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Chantee Lans has more as New York poultry farmers are asked to be on alert for a highly pathogenic avian influenza after it was detected in a small flock in Suffolk County.

KINGS PARK, Long Island (WABC) -- New York poultry farmers are asked to be on alert for a highly pathogenic avian influenza after it was detected in a small flock in Suffolk County.

According to a release from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI, was found among eight birds that were part of a non-commercial backyard flock.

Officials said samples from the flock were tested at two different laboratories.

The affected premises have been quarantined and the remaining birds were to be "depopulated" to prevent the spread of the disease.

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"It's a little bit scary," Catherine Raleigh-Boyland said. "We don't want to lose our birds."

Raleigh-Boyland has more than 8,000 birds on Raleigh's Poultry Farm, and 30-acre family business that is one of many now on high alert.

"I was surprised," employee Michael Ruggiero said. "I think most people on Long Island do keep track of their flock."

In 2015, a widespread bird flu outbreak killed 50 million birds across 15 states and cost the federal government nearly $1 billion.

The strain now circulating is H5N1 and is related to the 2015 virus. It has been circulating for months in Europe and Asia and was found in wild birds in Canada a few weeks ago and in a commercial flock in Canada a week before the first U.S. case was identified.

U.S. surveillance efforts have identified the virus in wild birds in recent weeks in Vermont, New Hampshire, Delaware, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and South Carolina.

"It's all secure, away from, keep away from the wild birds coming in," Raleigh-Boyland said. "That's the big thing. You don't want any wild birds to get into your flock, contaminate and bring in some of these flus."

Raleigh's Farms, which sells and delivers free range eggs and owns chickens, ducks and turkeys, is routinely inspected by the state several times a year.

Their protocol is no one is allowed inside a chicken coop, only the staff, and after they suit up.

"We always have to suit up," Ruggiero said. "They're not like HazMat suits. I would compare them to like a beekeeper suit, minus the headpiece, and in lieu of the headpiece, we always wear masks."

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Anyone involved with poultry production should review their biosecurity activities to ensure the health of their birds, restrict human movement onto the farm and limit contact with poultry to only those who need to be there.

Bird owners should also prevent contact between their birds and wild birds and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to state or federal officials.

"In 62 years, we've had a very good track records," Raleigh-Boyland said. "My dad was always about that since day one."

Health officials say no human cases of avian influenza viruses have been detected in the U.S. and the disease doesn't present an immediate public health concern.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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