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MDA: Bird flu could arrive in Maryland by spring

During a Jan. 7 conference call, Maryland Department of Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder warned that "bird flu" could arrive in Maryland this spring.

The Maryland Department of Agriculture advises all poultry producers, both commercial and hobby, to remain vigilant about highly pathogenic avian influenza, also known as bird flu or HPAI.

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"This could be devastating to the poultry industry. We want all flock managers to take this seriously," Bartenfelder said.

According to the MDA, avian influenza is a viral disease that can affect bird species throughout the world. It is spread through the feces of wild migratory birds. It is not a human health issue.

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Since December 2014, the United States Department of Agriculture has confirmed 223 cases of HPAI in the Pacific, Central and Mississippi migratory bird paths. There are currently no known or reported cases of HPAI in Maryland but flock owners are urged to practice enhanced biosecurity to protect their flocks.

"This strain of avian influenza could very well bring economic disaster to our largest agricultural sector if we don't take steps to protect the birds now," Bartenfelder said.

If HPAI is confirmed, MDA officials said they will work with USDA and other federal partners to execute a response plan following five basic steps: quarantine the farm, eradicate the affected flocks, monitor the region, disinfect the affected flock locations and retest the farm to ensure it is virus-free.

MDA encourages poultry producers to look for warning signs in their flocks. Symptoms can include lack of energy and appetite; decreased egg production and soft-shelled or misshapen eggs; swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles and hocks; purple discoloration of the wattles, combs and legs; runny nose; coughing, sneezing, stumbling or falling down; diarrhea; and sudden death without any clinical signs.

For more information, visit www.mda.maryland.gov/avianflu.

410-857-7873

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