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Avian Influenza Prompts Poultry Quarantine In Southeast Kansas

The Kansas Department of Agriculture has quarantined parts of two counties in the southeast corner of the state in response to an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza. The quarantine is aimed at keeping the bird disease out of Kansas.

A confirmed case of the H5N2 strain of avian influenza was found in a commercial turkey flock just across the state line near Asbury, Mo. An outbreak of the same virus has also been confirmed in a flock of more than 40,000 turkeys in northwest Arkansas. Avian influenza is a contagious, rapidly spreading viral disease affecting birds.

This particular strain of the virus, unlike the one that caused so much concern in Asia a few years ago, has never been known to cause disease in humans, but the possibility can’t be entirely ruled out if people are exposed to diseased birds. Authorities say people who have flu-like symptoms and believe they’ve been in contact with infected animals or consumed infected meat should contact their health care provider immediately.

Under the order Thursday from Kansas Animal Health Commissioner Bill Brown, it’s now illegal to move live poultry or poultry products—including eggs—into or out of the quarantine zone without first receiving an official permit. Permits issued by the Missouri Department of Agriculture Animal Health Division for the movement of poultry or poultry products, including eggs, from the control area in Missouri into Kansas will be accepted. The quarantine is expected to remain in effect for at least 30 days.

A response team from KDA’s Division of Animal Health and from USDA has been dispatched to the area to conduct surveillance activities, according to Dr. Brown. 

“It is important to know where backyard flocks of poultry exist,” Brown said.  “We have also been in contact with commercial poultry farmers in the region.” 

Avian influenza exists naturally in many wild birds and can be transmitted by contact with infected animals or ingestion of infected food or water. 

“We are dedicated to providing the necessary assistance and precautions to avoid any possible spreading of the disease,” Brown said.

Symptoms in poultry include coughing, sneezing, respiratory distress, decreased egg production and sudden death.  

KDA is seeking assistance from backyard poultry owners in the Crawford and Cherokee County areas. The agency asks poultry owners to self-report their backyard flocks by calling the KDA Division of Animal Health at 785-564-6601. That will help animal health officials monitor and control the spread of the disease.

Bryan Thompson is a reporter for KHI News Service in Topeka, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team.

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