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Virginia braces against avian flu after virus detected in Fauquier flock

Chickens at a high-density farm.
Chickens at a high-density farm.(MGN / Credit: Lance Cheung / USDA / Cutout Credit: woodleywonderworks / Flickr / CC BY 2.0)
Published: Mar. 28, 2022 at 4:09 PM EDT
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Virginia farmers and agriculture officials are bracing themselves after a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza known as the Eurasian H5 type was detected in a flock of chickens and turkeys in Fauquier County this February.

“We’re very worried,” said Hobey Bauhan, president of state industry group the Virginia Poultry Federation. An outbreak “would be devastating economically,” he added.

Virginia’s last major outbreak of the virus in 2002 affected 197 farms in the Shenandoah Valley and resulted in the culling of more than 4.7 million turkeys and chickens. In 2007, officials detected avian influenza in a single turkey flock in Mt. Jackson, but no other cases were reported.

“In 2002, it got out of hand and spread a lot before people really knew how bad it was,” State Veterinarian Charles Broaddus told the Virginia Board of Agriculture and Consumer Services Thursday. “But now we have a plan, and the plan we hope will be able to contain it to a smaller area before it’s spread that far.”

Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Joseph Guthrie said an emergency order has been drafted and sent to Gov. Glenn Youngkin in the event that cases increase.

“Thankfully we have not had to use that yet, but we are prepared,” he said.

Avian influenza is typically spread by the feces of wild waterfowl who act as carriers. The virus can survive more than 35 days in manure, soil and water and several months in colder conditions.

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.(Virginia Mercury)

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.

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