Arizona officials have confirmed the first cases of bird flu in the southwest, which has killed 37 million birds from commercial farms in central and eastern the United States.
The disease was discovered after federal wildlife officials tested three wild cormorants found dead in a park in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Arizona Game and Fisheries officials said this week.
According to the agency, the disease has not been detected in any poultry or commercial operations.
Glenn Hickman, president and CEO of Hickman Family Farms, one of the largest egg producers in the Southwest, said it was a cause for concern. Hickman runs four chicken farms in Arizona, one in California and two in Colorado.
The company stopped visiting farms and double-checked a biosafety program designed to prevent infection in about 2 million chickens. Its hens are housed in barns that are guarded from wild birds, and those who enter are disinfected.
The company recently fled fears when bird flu was found in a herd 3 miles from a farm in Colorado, Hickman said Thursday. While he is concerned about the discovery in Scottsdale, there is nowhere to go for a nearby commercial operation.
“They’re a lot more dangerous because the mass number of viruses that can occur when you have a large population is much higher than a small number of viruses in a wild bird population,” he said. None of his farms were affected.
Arizona Game and Fish officials have been closely monitoring the disease, which is closer to Colorado, than this week’s announcement, in response to all calls from dead birds.
Anne Justis-Allen, the department’s wildlife veterinarian, said community calls alerted her agency to dead thieves, often water-loving birds nesting in groups. A morning walk in the park saw a three-year-old boy fall out of his nest and die.
Adilet-Allen said, “They did a good job,” because they were able to collect the birds and test them until the park staff removed them.
Adilet-Allen said, “We had a suspicion that this was something we didn’t usually see.” “We have carmorants living in this area and we don’t see any deaths from them.”
According to Adilet-Allen, herds of chickens allowed in some parts of the Phoenix subway are a major concern. The disease has been found in the sheep of many homeowners across the country.
Poultry owners should be alerted to symptoms such as malnutrition or lethargy, runny nose, seizures or diarrhea, he said. Those who see such signs should contact the Ministry of Agriculture.
New strains of highly contagious avian influenza were first identified in the United States in February in Indiana. Since then, more than 37 million birds have been killed to prevent the spread of the infection.
As of June 3, it has been identified as a wild bird in 40 states, but not in California, Arizona, Nevada or New Mexico. In 19 states, commercial herds were infected.
Once the infection is found, the birds will not recover and will be killed to prevent the spread of the disease, Justis-Allen said.
The disease has not only killed poultry. It has also been severely affected by bald eagles and other species of wild birds, far more than the recent outbreak of bird flu in the country in 2014. The epidemic has affected more than 50 million poultry.
According to Hikman, egg producers are making up for lost production due to the epidemic that affected the herd this year.
“I think there are eggs on the shelves of every grocery store in America, no matter how many birds are injured and the numbers are declining,” Hickman said.