Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Today at 11:24
Bird flu outbreak detected at Alexandre family farm, forcing businesses to ‘depopulate’ and quarantine
An outbreak of bird flu has forced Alexandre Family Farm to “depopulate” its entire flock and start from scratch, Blake Alexandre said on Friday.
The contagious disease was detected in a flock of 43,000 birds at an “independent table egg producer” in Del Norte County, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s H5N1 avian flu detection map. United States.
Alexandre confirmed on Friday that the herd belonged to his family. The outbreak was detected about a week ago, he said, and they have finished culling their birds in accordance with government protocol. Alexandre Family Farm is unable to sell eggs for a while – Alexandre did not know this for a long time. But, he said, they will have new birds and come back.
“It’s kind of hard to deny that it would be us, so yeah, it’s us,” Alexandre told the Wild Rivers Outpost. “It’s an extremely difficult time on the farm and we just need to get through it quietly.”
In addition to the case in Del Norte County, new bird flu outbreaks have been detected in Stanislaus County and Monterey County, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. As of October 4, outbreaks had been confirmed in domestic herds in Butte, Calaveras, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Fresno, Sacramento and Tuolumne.
Infected premises are quarantined and birds euthanized to limit the spread of the disease, according to the CDFA.
In Oregon, bird flu has been detected in Coos, Douglas, Lane, Deschutes, Linn and Tillamook counties, according to the CDC.
Del Norte County Agriculture Commissioner Justin Riggs said the state veterinarian’s office notified him of the local outbreak, but he didn’t know it was at Alexander Family Farm. Riggs said staff from his department would assist in an inspection if requested by the CDFA or the state veterinarian’s office, but he received no “contact about it.”
“Our generally day-to-day role in this type of animal health issue is small,” Riggs said. “I had received a CDFA alert from the State Veterinarian’s Office indicating that Avian Flu had been detected in Del Norte. But usually, if they wanted us to do something, I would get a phone call from the CDFA.
Alexandre called the recent bird flu outbreaks “a bit like a pandemic”, saying it was the worst year his family has ever had. He said he’s been working with state and federal veterinarians to try to figure out how long his farm needs to be quarantined and when they can start replacing their birds.
Alexandre said he hasn’t received this information yet, in part because these agencies are “overwhelmed with problems everywhere, so they’re very scattered.”
“I think it’s been the worst year we’ve ever had and I think what needs to be said is that it’s carried by wildlife,” he said, adding that the herds of wild geese that visit his pastures have just left. “We are very vulnerable to this because our birds are spread over a 300 acre grazing area.”
According to the CDFA, bird flu has been detected in wild birds in 22 counties in California, including Siskiyou.
Although Del Norte is not among the 22 county CDFA lists as having infected wild birds, owners of backyard flocks should be careful about sanitation, especially if they go anywhere wild birds frequent or if they visit other domestic flocks, Riggs said.
These precautions are also important for those who own ducks, turkeys and other birds in addition to chickens, he said.
“If it was me, I wouldn’t wear my shoes or boots in the areas where my herd is going to be that I wore off the property,” Riggs said. “What you’re aiming for is to keep your flock as separate as possible from everything else. You don’t want to encourage wild birds to come onto your property if you have a flock. You certainly don’t feed them and if you have fruit remains in the trees, consider removing them.
Bird flu is highly contagious and often fatal to birds and is spread through direct or indirect contact with infected birds, according to CDFA. Symptoms include difficulty breathing; clear, watery discharge from nose, mouth and eyes; lethargy; decreased food and water consumption; swelling around the eyes, head, wattles or combs; discolored or bruised crest, wattles or legs; stumble and fall; twisting of the neck or sudden death.
Riggs urged people to visit the CDFA website and learn about animal health and biosecurity. They can also keep up to date with bird flu outbreaks in California, he said.
The CDFA urges poultry owners whose birds have suffered illness or sudden death to call its Sick Bird Hotline at (866) 922-2473.
The Alexandre Kids started Alexandre Kids, their organic pasture-raised egg business, about 18 years ago. Their products have appeared in stores across the state, most recently in Southern California.
The bird flu outbreak on his family’s farm is a blow, Alexandre said, but he and his son are trying to bounce back.
“I feel very lucky that we have a path back to production,” he said.
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