Bird Flu Hits Tennessee; Alabama Poultry Farmers on Alert
Pete Bates grew up around birds. His father owned the Bates Turkey Farm, and now Pete and his siblings share ownership and run the farm.
Bates says a serious case of avian influenza, more commonly known as bird flu, can devastate a poultry farm. He and his family had to deal with a bird flu outbreak two years ago.
“It affected some people’s livelihoods, what’s already happened,” Bates says. “It’s something for everybody that’s in this industry to be aware of and be concerned about.”
A strain of avian influenza recently hit a farm in Lincoln County, Tennessee, right on the Tennessee/Alabama border. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture reports this is the first time this particular strain of bird flu has been found in the state.
Bates says he was told the farm took all precaution to isolate the bird flu so it won’t spread to any other farms.
“Because of the turkey and poultry issue, avian influenza outbreak of two years ago, people really stepped up and came up with, ‘hey, here’s what we need to do. Here’s plan A, here’s plan B, this is how we best contain the virus,'” he says.
Bates says bird flu is commonly spread through wild, migratory birds. Flu outbreaks usually happen during the spring and fall, when wild birds travel.
The first step farmers with infected birds take is quarantining affected animals. Then the diseased birds will be humanely euthanized according to state regulations.
Bates says farmers who are worried about the spread of bird flu should start taking extra precaution caring for their birds. This includes keeping tame birds away from wild ones, making sure farm employees are correctly sanitizing before coming in contact with the birds, and cleaning trucks and equipment that could have been contaminated.
Bates Turkey Farm won’t get new birds until early August, so Bates isn’t too worried about the bird flu just yet. He says as long as the affected farms make sure to stop the spread of the virus, poultry farms shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
“Are we concerned? Yes, we’re concerned. But as long as we know what’s going on on our farms and limiting the access, I think everything will be fine.”