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Utah agriculture dept. warns of food supply disruptions due to avian flu

Brown eggs in cardboard egg carton.
Getty Images/iStockphoto
Brown eggs in cardboard egg carton.

Utah agriculture officials are worried about the potential impact of avian flu outbreaks on the poultry industry and the food supply. There are two confirmed cases in the state.

One, reported on April 23, was on a farm in Cache County. Because the disease is so contagious, all chickens on that farm will be culled, according to Bailee Woolstenhulme, a spokesperson for the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.

“It's going to be devastating to them, to their business, to our food supply,” she said. “That will hugely impact our egg availability and our chicken availability due to the loss of other chicken farms in the country.”

The second was in a backyard flock in Utah County.

Twenty-nine states have reported outbreaks to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Utah and Idaho are the furthest west.

Woolstenhulme said most farms already have strict measures in place to avoid avian flu. But she suggested that Utahns with backyard chickens should keep them cooped up and away from anything that wild birds could come in contact with.

It’s not just the agricultural industry that’s concerned. The Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City has also made changes to help protect its more than 400 birds.

“To be extra safe and extra cautious based on what we're seeing in Utah, we've closed a couple of our exhibits,” said Kate Lyngle-Cowand, curator of exhibit collections. “But with that said, we also have some exhibits there netted over to protect our birds from the wild waterfowl that like to frequent our ponds.”

According to the CDC, it’s very rare for the disease to infect humans.

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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