"This should not be a concern at all for consumers."

The outbreak of avian influenza (bird flu) in poultry and egg barns has hit closer to home in South Dakota, leading to many consumer questions and concerns. Dustin Oedekoven, DVM, South Dakota State Veterinarian, addresses some of these concerns about the bird flu.

The avian influenza virus that we are dealing with now is a relatively new strain. At this point, it does not appear to affect humans. Its low-risk to humans and there are currently no known human cases of avian influenza. Its not really a human health issue, and its not a food safety issue," Dr. Oedekoven said. "It's important to note that no poultry and egg products in the grocery store have come from barns that were impacted by avian influenza. This should not be a concern at all for consumers.

In South Dakota, nine counties Beadle, Kingsbury, McCook, McPherson, Roberts, Spink, Hutchinson, Moody and Yankton have been impacted by avian influenza. The most recent was a commercial egg layer facility in Moody County, where avian influenza was discovered on May 13. This case alone has impacted 1.25 million hens, and the turkey population across South Dakota has been reduced by 20 percent.

I would like to stress that this is not a human health or food safety issue, but the lives and businesses of many individuals are being impacted by avian influenza, said Scott VanderWal, family farmer from Volga, S.D. and President of the South Dakota Farm Bureau. Its a terrible disruption, not only to these businesses and families, but also the food supply chain, and it may affect food prices down the road. As Farm Bureau members, we can help by reassuring the public that this is not a food safety issue.

All poultry is potentially susceptible to this virus, Dr. Oedekoven noted, and there are some considerations owners of backyard chicken flocks should consider to keep their birds healthy.

Avian influenza has been found in some backyard flocks across the country, but there havent been any cases in South Dakota, Dr. Oedekoven said. From a disease-control standpoint, all poultry exhibitions will be suspended until further notice. If owners are concerned about avian influenza, they should contact the state veterinarian office immediately. We have received a number of calls, but in all cases we havent found any avian influenza present. I encourage owners to look for other causes of health concerns in cooperation with their local veterinarian.

Symptoms of the bird flu in poultry include sudden death, fever, a drop in egg production, swollen waddle and comb, and huddling in isolated groups. For more information and updates on avian influenza in South Dakota, visit the South Dakota Animal Industry Board online at www.aib.sd.gov.