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Avian flu detected in Ballard County, federal officials confirm

Federal officials said they have notified the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife that the deadly virus has been found in waterfowl in Ballard County.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Federal officials have detected the deadly avian flu virus in Ballard County.

Officials said they notified the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife after the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Lab detected the virus in two sick snow geese collected from the Ballard Wildlife Management Area.

State officials in Kentucky and Tennessee are already working together to prevent the spread of the virus after it was detected in a flock of commercial broiler chickens in Fulton County.

Since the detection, federal and state agencies are asking anyone involved in poultry production, from commercial producers to those with small backyard flocks to review their biosecurity practices to ensure the health of their birds.

“There are many different subtypes of avian influenza viruses,” Dr. Christine Casey, wildlife veterinarian for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife said in a statement. “These viruses are classified as either ‘low pathogenic’ or ‘highly pathogenic’ based on their ability to produce disease in domestic poultry. Wild waterfowl do not typically exhibit signs of disease, but mortality can occur in wild birds infected with highly pathogenic strains.”

To combat those cases, Transportation Secretary Jim Gray has signed an order to suspend “certain restrictions” on motor carriers delivering wood chips for composting chickens in western and southern Kentucky.

The order would temporarily relieve commercial drivers “from maximum driving times and weigh station stops if they are transporting composting materials to affected areas.”

That order is in effect until 12:01 a.m. on March 18.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife officials are working with USDA Wildlife Services on surveillance efforts and will monitor for any illnesses and die-offs involving wild birds.

The public health risk posed by avian flu in wild birds and poultry is low. The flu also doesn’t present a food safety risk.

If you are handling wild game, it’s suggested to cook it to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. It will kill any bacteria and viruses, including avian flu.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife are urging hunters to follow these guidelines:

  • Do not harvest or handle wild birds that are obviously sick or otherwise found dead.
  • Wear gloves and wash hands with soap and warm water after handling wild birds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Disinfect any materials (e.g., knives, equipment and surfaces) that come in contact with dead birds. Use dedicated tools for cleaning game and avoid using them around poultry or pet birds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes or mouth while cleaning game.
  • Double bag the feathers and other remains. Tie the inner bag, take off your gloves and leave them in the outer bag before tying it closed. Then wash your hands or use hand sanitizer. Place the bag in the trash and close the lid on the receptacle.

If you happen to see sick or dead birds, you can report it directly to Kentucky Fish and Wildlife through their online reporting system.

Ballard County is about 240-miles west of the Louisville Metro area.


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