Avian flu wreaks havoc in California, poultry industry takes an existential hit - Hindustan Times
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Avian flu wreaks havoc in California, poultry industry takes an existential hit

Jan 27, 2024 10:13 PM IST

Avian flu is back at it, and once again it's taken a toll on the ‘Egg Basket of the World’. Experts advise Californian farm owners to take adequate measures.

Mike Weber, co-owner of Sunrise Farms received a devastating news in January that put his commercial business in jeopardy. The chickens in his farms tested positive for avian flu. As per government rules, his company was left with no choice but to euthanize all the egg-laying hens in his farms.

A picture from the Sunrise Farms processing plant in Petaluma, California. Commercial poultry industry suffers from the consequences of avian influenza. (AP)
A picture from the Sunrise Farms processing plant in Petaluma, California. Commercial poultry industry suffers from the consequences of avian influenza. (AP)

“It's a trauma. We're all going through grief as a result of it”, claimed Weber after slaughtering his entire flock of 550,000 birds. The deed was done to prevent other farms in California's Sonoma County from being infected by the pathogenic flu. Weber further reminded that despite Petaluma being the 'Egg Basket of the World', its egg baskets had been subjected to such pain.

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This heartbreaking grief follows a year after the bird flu had already resulted in the poultry industry being majorly struck with record high prices. Reportedly, a state of emergency has been declared in Sonoma County due to the destruction caused by the contagious virus.

More than a million birds have been euthanized in the last two months, further resulting in an economic crisis for the farmers and even the customers. The outbreak has also spread further to California's Merced County.

How to prevent Avian flu from spreading further?

Flocks of ducks, geese and other waterfowl are responsible for carrying the virus without getting affected themselves. Their dropping propagate the deadly virus to chicken farms. Therefore, curbing the disease on a human level isn't as easy as it may seem.

State Veterinarian Annette Jones has still come up with some ways to handle the issue. One of these measures requires the farmer to locks their bird indoors till June. This will especially play a huge role in cutting down the cases as migration will still continue for a few more months. California Poultry Federation's president Bill Mattos also seconds this notion (AP).

A UC Davis researcher - Rodrigo Gallardo - has even advised the farm owners to be wary of simpler factors that may be taken for granted in this case. Farmers should keep their clothes and shoes clean as another means to keep infections at bay. Chickens being tested for avian flu is a second obvious if the birds drop in masses.

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