The avian flu has wreaked havoc in many poultry farms across the country. Cases of the H5N2 virus have been found in 16 states, in the West, Midwest and the Mississippi flyway.
While no cases of avian flu have been reported in Delaware, Dan Shortridge, spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture, said that Delaware is well-prepared to respond.
“Delaware we believe is one of the best prepared states for this type of situation because we have such a strong partnership with our family farmers, our poultry processors with universities," said Shortridge. "All of our commercial poultry growers are aware of the possible impact and are on alert.”
Shortridge says it’s hard to say at this point whether the avian flu will reach poultry farms in the Delaware region. Delaware’s poultry industry is estimated at $4 billion dollars a year. All flocks are tested before they go to the market. In addition to the monitoring that’s already conducted at commercial farms, the Department of Agriculture is also reaching out to backyard chicken farmers.
“What we are doing is taking special steps to reach out to backyard flock owners, so that would be a family with a flock out in the backyard, who might use their eggs and treat them more like pets," said Shortridge. "So we’re doing special outreach to reach out to them and communicate precautions they can take and how they can get their birds tested if they see signs and symptoms.”
H5N2 does not pose any immediate threats to the public or to food safety, but the virus can have adverse impacts on flocks. Authorities in Iowa killed 5.3 million hens due to the outbreak. USDA officials say a vaccine is still in development.