ALABAMA (WHNT) — In early November, 48,000 birds were killed at a Marshall County farm after testing positive for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), a bird flu that caused an outbreak at the chicken farm.
With Thanksgiving a week away, many across north Alabama are wondering if the bird flu will impact their holiday meal plans. However, officials with the Department of Agriculture say Alabamians shouldn’t be worried about the possibility of sick birds making their way to the dinner table.
“There’s a lot of moving parts and a lot of people working very hard to make this have as minimal impact as we can,” said Alabama State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Frazier.
Officials have been racing to deescalate the virus’ impact on local farms, carrying out testing on a regular basis. Frazier says Alabama is among the top broiler producers in the nation, which is why he says the outbreak will not affect those at home.
“With the volume of production that we have, it’s really not going to have a negative impact on the at-home availability of poultry in Alabama,” Frazier told News 19.
Frazier says the bird flu is shared among migratory waterfowl, which includes ducks and geese. These birds follow a seasonal migration pattern, carrying the virus with them as they travel to milder climates in the south for winter.
The virus can sometimes spill over into domestic poultry, which is likely what sparked the recent outbreak at a farm in Marshall County. With Thanksgiving just days away, Frazier says people should not worry about the flu’s impact on turkeys.
“The turkeys and the poultry meat is extremely safe, the virus will not make it to our Thanksgiving tables or Christmas tables, as long as we respond quickly like we have,” Frazier said. “Infected birds do not and cannot make it into the food chain.”
For birds that are sick and dying, Frazier says there is an inspection process in place that prevents these birds from reaching the grocery store well before they are processed.
The virus rarely infects humans and officials are urging Alabamians not to worry about the flu making them sick.
“The virus does not affect humans, we’ve been in touch with the Department of Public Health and CDC to date, even across the country there’s no evidence that this virus can or will infect human beings,” Frazier said.
Frazier says because there’s no vaccine for the virus, he encourages farmers to use bio-security, meaning those in charge of poultry should have dedicated clothing and footwear when caring for their chickens. He says farmers should clean these items frequently.