- Associated Press - Friday, October 9, 2015

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - As birds’ autumn migratory patterns change, Connecticut agriculture officials are increasingly concerned about the risk of bird flu and are urging poultry owners in the state to register the location of their flocks as a precaution.

No cases have been detected in the state’s poultry, an estimated 5 million birds, or elsewhere in the Northeast, officials say. Highly pathogenic avian influenza poses a low risk to humans and the food supply.

“Now that the seasons are changing and birds are migrating from north to south and we’re in the middle of the eastern flyway, the risk of detecting HPAI is vastly increased,” Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky said Thursday.

The disease has led to the disposal of more than 48 million birds in the West and Midwest since late last year, officials said.

Registering flocks in Connecticut is not mandatory. But it will provide information about locations and numbers of poultry for emergency response purposes if the flu is detected, officials said.

It is particularly important that small-flock owners register with the state, officials say, because the virus typically spreads to poultry from wild birds and can grow rapidly. The state says the information will be used only for emergency response purposes if bird flu is detected in Connecticut and will help prepare a “robust response.”

Kathy Shea Mormino, who has 50 chickens on her Suffield property and blogs about backyard chicken-keeping, said the objective of state officials is admirable. But she said she would not provide the information the state wants.

“I am more aware than the average backyard chicken keeper where the aviation illness is and I’m tracking it so I don’t think the state needs all those details about my flock to tell me something I already know,” she said.

In addition, many backyard chicken flocks are not in compliance with local zoning laws, she said, and owners will therefore avoid state attention.

“These people don’t want to put themselves on the government radar,” Mormino said.

States have imposed numerous restrictions and rules to keep their birds free of the illness. Virginia requires farmers to isolate birds for two weeks after traveling to a poultry show, Kentucky has barred poultry sales at fairs and Tennessee says any bird that gets sick within 14 days before traveling to a fair disqualifies the entire flock.

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Follow Stephen Singer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SteveSinger10


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