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Chicken hatcheries take extra precautions as avian flu cases increase in Missouri

As the weather gets warmer and many waterfowl, or wild birds, start to migrate back to colder areas, they bring the possibility of spreading a highly contagious and dangerous flu virus.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza is highly contagious for chickens and requires fast response. Sometimes it could mean an entire flock would need to be culled.

"Avian influenza is really harsh on domestic domestic birds," Christi Miller, communications director at the Missouri Department of Agriculture, said. "So as these wild waterfowl bring it back to domestic birds, it has a high impact and a high death rate on domestic chickens and domestic turkeys."

There are currently six total avian flu affected counties in Missouri - including Stoddard, Bates, Jasper, Lawrence, Ralls and Gentry.

The high death rate means it's important that producers keep their flock as safe as possible.

Molly Schooley, manager of Rileysburg Ridge LLC farm and hatchery in Clark, said she knew she had to take as many precautions as possible when she heard about the bird flu in the area.

"So it's very important for us as a business, and as just a farm in general to make sure that we have proper measures set into place so that that doesn't happen," Schooley said.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture recommends that any farmers and producers take as many precautions as possible to protect their flock.

  • Restrict visitor access to birds
  • Restrict contact with wild birds, especially waterflow birds like ducks 
  • Wash hands before and after handling birds
  • Clean and disinfect anything that's visited a poultry farm 

Though avian flu is harmful to flock, there is not a possibility of it affecting anything a consumer might buy, like eggs or chicken products.
"Food supply is very safe, and don't let that impact your ability to and your desire to eat those those delicious products from Missouri's farmers and ranchers," Miller said.

Schooley said she's taking as many precautions as possible to protect her farm. Her free range chickens now also have a cover over them. They also limited visitors to the farm for the time being to keep the birds safe.

Miller said she hopes as the weather warms up even more, the flu will start to move away from the area and the birds will be safe again.

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