(WFXR) – Concerns about bird flu continue to grow in the Commonwealth, particularly after several suspicious bird deaths were reported in southwestern Virginia. The big question is: are people and other animals safe from the virus?
Roanoke’s Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center director of operations Haley Olsen-Hodges says if you have birds in your yard, and you see they’re sick. Then you need the right protective gear.
“Wearing gloves is a good idea. If you don’t have gloves, just make sure you wash your hands well, and if you start to get sick, it’s a good idea to go see a doctor and let them know “hey, I was exposed to a bird,” Olsen-Hodges said.
According to Olsen-Hodges, it’s easy for birds to transmit the virus, so poultry keepers should try to keep wild birds away from domestic birds.
Another tip from Olsen-Hodges is to dismantle all bird feeders.
“If you have domestic poultry or pet birds that have access to the outdoors, I would recommend taking down feeders or birdbaths, the kinds of things that would attract birds,” Olsen-Hodges said.
Olsen-Hodges adds that this is just a safety measure, especially since it’s the time of year when the birds aren’t working hard to find food. During this time, the birds would have fed their young insects instead of seeds.
But besides birds, who can catch bird flu?
Michael Persia, an assistant professor at Virginia Tech and an extension specialist in the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences, says it’s possible for humans to contract bird flu.
“I think to date in the United States there has been one person who has contracted this and that was a person who directly dealt with infected birds,” Persia said, referring to an inmate from the Colorado who worked with poultry on a commercial farm. under a pre-release employment program.
Persia suggests going above and beyond to protect your birds.
“If you’re just going through simple grass, and you can get into feces, and if you’re introducing that into your birds,” said the Virginia Tech assistant professor. “So what we recommend is to have a dedicated pair of shoes, to wash your hands.”
According to Persia, this isn’t the first time Virginia has witnessed an outbreak of avian flu.
“In this strain, we only had one case. This was reported a few months ago now and it was a backyard flock in Northern Virginia. Previously, we had more localized outbreaks,” Persia said.
The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources also reported in late January that at least two Commonwealth wild birds had been confirmed to have bird flu.
Persia says bird flu is bad for the US economy because it comes along with inflation, the war in Ukraine, the coronavirus pandemic, and more. Specifically, bird flu may impact egg supply and demand
If you see dead birds on your property or if your birds begin to act strangely, you should contact the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services immediately.