Virginia's 1st case of bird flu confirmed: what you need to know

Watchful Eye
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Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) confirmed the Commonwealth’s first case of bird flu, a serious threat to poultry owners and farming operations.

VDACS said Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) was found among a flock of commercial turkeys in Rockingham County.

HPAI is highly contagious and is commonly fatal for chickens. “Poultry is the Commonwealth’s top agricultural commodity and protecting this industry remains our top priority,” VDACS Commissioner Joseph Guthrie said in a statement.

The response

According to the USDA, rapid response is essential. “The goal is to quickly contain and eradicate the disease, protecting our poultry industry, and in turn, the American consumer,” says information from USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

In response to the Rockingham incident, authorities quarantined the affected site and eliminated the 25,000 birds on the property in hopes of preventing the disease from spreading. Meanwhile, authorities are conducting a surveillance and testing effort within the 10-kilometer radius that surrounds the affected area.

What you need to know

All Virginia poultry owners, including those with non-commercial backyard flocks, are urged to review their biosecurity activities to assure the health of their birds. VDACS is also urging poultry owners to prevent their birds from having contact with wild birds, which can be infected without appearing to be sick.

People should minimize contact with wild birds, and use gloves when contact is needed. Those who interact with wild birds need to not only wash their hands with soap and water but also change clothes before interacting with domestic poultry and birds, said VDACS.

Additionally, hunters are advised to dress game birds in the field whenever possible.

VDACS isn’t raising any alarm with regard to significant human risks from consumption. The department points to CDC guidance, which deems “the risk to the general public from HPAI H5 infections to be low.”

Properly handling and cooking poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165˚F kills bacteria and viruses, including HPAI, added VDACS.

If you have sick birds or witness unusual bird deaths, you should contact the State Veterinarian’s Office at (804) 692-0601 or at

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